Pregnancy Rights You Need to Know

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions (included abortion, in vitro fertilization and miscarriages) constitutes unlawful gender discrimination under Title VII. There is protection for pregnant women under New York State and New York City law as well. Women who are pregnant or affected by pregnancy-related conditions must be treated in the same manner as other applicants or employees with similar abilities or limitations.

1. Discrimination in Hiring

a. An employer cannot refuse to hire a pregnant woman because of her pregnancy, because of a pregnancy-related condition, or because of the prejudices of co-workers, clients, or customers.

2. Pregnancy and Maternity Leave Discrimination

a. An employer may not single out pregnancy-related conditions for special procedures to determine an employee's ability to work. However, if an employer requires its employees to submit a doctor's statement concerning their inability to work before granting leave or paying sick benefits, the employer may require employees affected by pregnancy-related conditions to submit such statements.

b. If an employee is temporarily unable to perform her job because of her pregnancy, the employer must treat her the same as any other temporarily disabled employee. For example, if the employer allows temporarily disabled employees to modify tasks, perform alternative assignments, or take disability leave or leave without pay, the employer also must allow an employee who is temporarily disabled because of pregnancy to do the same.

c. Pregnant employees must be permitted to work as long as they are able to perform their jobs. If an employee has been absent from work as a result of a pregnancy-related condition and recovers, her employer may not require her to remain on leave until the baby's birth. An employer also may not have a rule that prohibits an employee from returning to work for a predetermined length of time after childbirth.

d. Employers must hold open a job for a pregnancy-related absence the same length of time jobs are held open for employees on sick or disability leave.

3. Health Insurance

a. Any health insurance provided by an employer must cover expenses for pregnancy-related conditions on the same basis as costs for other medical conditions. An employer need not provide health insurance for expenses arising from abortion, except where the life of the mother is endangered.

b. Pregnancy-related expenses should be reimbursed exactly as those incurred for other medical conditions, whether payment is on a fixed basis or a percentage of reasonable-and-customary-charge basis.

c. The amounts payable by the insurance provider can be limited only to the same extent as amounts payable for other conditions. No additional, increased, or larger deductible can be imposed.

d. Employers must provide the same level of health benefits for spouses of male employees as they do for spouses of female employees.

4. Fringe Benefits

a. Pregnancy-related benefits cannot be limited to married employees. In an all-female workforce or job classification, benefits must be provided for pregnancy-related conditions if benefits are provided for other medical conditions.

b. If an employer provides any benefits to workers on leave, the employer must provide the same benefits for those on leave for pregnancy-related conditions.

c. Employees on leave because of pregnancy-related conditions must be treated the same as other temporarily disabled employees for accrual and crediting of seniority, vacation calculation, pay increases, and temporary disability benefits.

d. It is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on pregnancy or for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under Title VII.

e. New York Pregnancy Laws are somewhat limited in scope, but they are still more extensive than many state's laws. A pregnant worker must receive the same fringe benefits (including seniority accrual, sick leave, health, and medical coverage) received by employees for disabilities not related to pregnancy. Under New York's Human Rights law, employees in are entitled to 26 weeks of leave for pregnancy disability and recovery from childbirth.

f. The law covers all employers with one or more employees. New York's Temporary Disability Insurance program is funded by contributions from both employers and employees. The maximum leave is 26 weeks. New York state employees are entitled to seven months of unpaid parental leave from the date of delivery. In addition, state employees may be granted up to two years of unpaid leave for pregnancy or childbirth.

5. Other Federal Protection

a. Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This law guarantees that those who work for companies with 50 or more employees will get up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year to care for a new baby, a newly-adopted child or a seriously ill child. This family-oriented law also applies to seriously ill parents and recovery from the person's own serious medical condition. The federal law allows states to set standards that are higher than federal law, but only a few states have done this.

b. Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). PDA applies to employers with 15 or more employees. It is meant to protect the pregnant employee from discriminatory actions that are based on her pregnant status. This federal law was an amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, stating that women affected by pregnancy or related conditions must be treated in the same manner as other applicants or employees with similar abilities or limitations

6. New York State and New York City Law Protection

New York State and New York City "Human Rights" Laws protect pregnant women who work for employers with at least 4 employees (including employees not covered by federal law because they work for employers with less than 15 employees). These laws require employers to "accommodate" pregnant employees to the same extent as any other temporarily disabled workers

a. Under New York State Law, it is prohibited for employers to treat pregnant women differently. It also prohibits employers from requiring maternity leave while an employee can still perform the essential functions of her job.

b. The New York City Law covers employees who work in one of the five boroughs, affords pregnant women broader remedies than the coverage provided by New York State and federal law.

Talk to a Lawyer

Need a lawyer? Start here.

How it Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you
Get Professional Help

Talk to an Employment Rights attorney.

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you