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The Rights of Pregnant Women in The Workplace

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According to Census Bureau data, “66% of mothers who gave birth to their first child between 2006 and 2008 worked during their pregnancy”.  Eleven years later, a large percentage of first-time mothers still intend on working through most of their pregnancy. That being the case, it’s only logical that these expectant mothers understand their rights regarding the workplace and discrimination against pregnancy.

What Protects the Rights of Pregnant Women in the Workplace?

In 1978 Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was amended to prevent discrimination on the basis of pregnancy. The amendment is known as “The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978” or the “PDA”. Under this act employers must treat women affected by “pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions” the same for all purposes related to employment as other individuals who aren’t pregnant but similar in their ability or inability to work.

What Protections Does the PDA Provide?

The PDA protects women from being fired on the basis of being pregnant or plans to become pregnant.  An employer may not fire an employee because they are pregnant, and they must allow the employee in question to keep working as long as they are able. If a worker requests to be reassigned to a different role then the employer must give them the same consideration as a request from a non-pregnant employee. This means that an individual cannot be denied reassignment on the basis of their pregnancy alone.

If an employee believes that their employer violated the PDA and they chose to oppose it or file a discrimination charge, then it may be unlawful for the employer to retaliate against them whether that be by firing them or docking their pay. The PDA also prevents employers from bypassing an employee for a promotion or other benefits on the basis of their pregnancy. Vacation time and credits of service should not be affected by an employee’s pregnancy leave. In fact, employees on pregnancy-related leave have to be granted the same treatment as employees who are on disability-related leave.

In What Cases Does the PDA Not Protect me?

The PDA does not apply to employers with less than 15 employees. Thus, if a pregnant worker finds that their rights are being violated by an employer with less than 15 employees then they may not be able to refer to protections set under the PDA act.

On March 25, 2015, the United States Supreme Court decided on Young v. United Parcel Service. The case brought into question whether UPS could suspend a pregnant mother from work for not being able to perform a function of her job, which was lifting objects up to 70 pounds. Due to her time away from work she lost her employee medical coverage and then promptly filed suit in federal court accusing UPS of violating the PDA.  The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Young but did not agree with her interpretation of the PDA that her employer was mandated by the law to accommodate pregnant women when they provided a similar accommodation to a non-pregnant worker. The Supreme court found that in order to prove intentional discrimination on the basis of an employee’s pregnancy-related condition, the employee has to prove that an employer’s policies impose a “significant burden” on them and that the employers have not made a “sufficiently strong” reason to justify the said burden. This means that if a pregnant worker is not able to prove these two conditions, the charge against their employer might be dismissed. 

Discrimination lawsuits are an arduous and complex process that requires an in-depth understanding of the law. If you find your rights as an individual being violated in the workplace it is strongly advised that you seek out legal counsel.

PereGonza The Attorneys can offer a free consultation and give you insight on what the best course of action for what your specific case may be. Fill out our personal intake form for more information.


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