Although pregnancy discrimination has long been illegal, it’s still a widespread problem in U.S. workplaces. According to the Equal Opportunity Commission, thousands of women file pregnancy discrimination claims each year. Still, some women never file complaints because they might not be able to afford an attorney, fear retaliation or they don’t realize that what happened to them is illegal.
In 1978 the United States Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), which makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate against a woman based on pregnancy. The PDA prohibits employers with at least 15 employees from factoring pregnancy into employment decisions, including interviewing, hiring, firing and promoting.
Pregnancy-related conditions that the PDA protects include:
- You cannot be fired for being pregnant.
- You have the right to reasonable accommodation.
- You have the right to a safe place to take a break from work to pump breast milk.
- You cannot be harassed based on pregnancy, childbirth or other related conditions.
- You cannot be forced into taking time off or changing jobs if you are still able to do your job.
- You cannot be rejected for a job because you are pregnant or because you may become pregnant in the future.
Other federal laws also protect employees from pregnancy discrimination, including the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). When an employee cannot work because of high-risk pregnancy or complications from the birth of a child, the FMLA requires that employers grant up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. An employer may not hire someone permanently to fill the position while the employee is on leave. Employers are required to provide health insurance that covers pregnancy-related expenses equally to other medical conditions. Under FMLA, the employer must continue to pay health insurance benefits during leave.
If you feel that you’re the victim of pregnancy discrimination, document every detail and report it in writing to the human resources department.