Pregnancy Discrimination and Employment

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that protects employees from being discriminated against based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. The Act affects only employers that have 15 or more employees and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Pregnant women must be treated just like other female employees or applicants that aren't pregnant as stated by the EEOC. As stated by the EEOC, the following are the ways that pregnant women are protected by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act:

  • An employer cannot refuse to hire someone because she is pregnant or has a pregnancy-related condition.
  • An employer can't require a pregnant woman to submit to special procedures in order to determine whether she can perform her job duties unless the employer requires all employees to submit to those procedures.
  • An employer must treat a pregnant woman who can't perform her job due to a medical condition related to her pregnancy the same way he treats all temporarily disabled employees.
  • An employer may not keep a pregnant woman from working or prohibit a woman from returning to work after giving birth.
  • Any employer-provided health insurance plan must treat pregnancy-related conditions the same as other medical conditions.
  • Pregnant employees cannot pay a larger health insurance deductible than other employees pay.

Many women throughout the country are passed over for a promotion or a wage hike or even fired after they announce to their co-workers or their boss that they are pregnant. In 2006, the EEOC received close to 5,000 complaints about pregnancy discrimination from pregnant employees across the country. If a pregnant employee feels that they are being discriminated against because of their pregnancy they can file a complaint with the EEOC against their employer. Another federal law that protects pregnant workers from pregnancy discrimination is the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. This Act lets pregnant women take time off from work for childbirth or due to complications from the pregnancy or to care for a newborn without the fear of losing their job or having their salary reduced because of all the time missed at work. The process and requirements for filing a complaint for pregnancy discrimination against an employer as described by the EEOC are:

The complaining party's name, address, and telephone number;

  • The name, address, and telephone number of the respondent employer, employment agency, or union that is alleged to have discriminated, and number of employees (or union members), if known;
  • A short description of the alleged violation (the event that caused the complaining party to believe that his or her rights were violated); and
  • The date(s) of the alleged violation(s).
  • A charge must be filed with EEOC within 180 days from the date of the alleged violation, in order to protect the charging party's rights.
  • This 180-day filing deadline is extended to 300 days if the charge also is covered by a state or local anti-discrimination law. For ADEA charges, only state laws extend the filing limit to 300 days.
  • These time limits do not apply to claims under the Equal Pay Act, because under that Act persons do not have to first file a charge with EEOC in order to have the right to go to court. However, since many EPA claims also raise Title VII sex discrimination issues, it may be advisable to file charges under both laws within the time limits indicated.
  • To protect legal rights, it is always best to contact EEOC promptly when discrimination is suspected.
Contact an employment attorney if you would like to get more information.
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