Millions of women in the U.S. experience discrimination based on pregnancy each year. Pregnancy is not a covered disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, workplace discrimination based on a worker’s pregnancy status is unlawful under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. This law prohibits employers from making employment decisions based on a worker’s pregnancy. Employers are required to treat workers who are temporarily unable to perform their jobs because of pregnancy in the same way that they treat other workers who are temporarily disabled. In addition, pregnant employees may also be allowed to take time off from work under the Family and Medical Leave Act and state family leave laws. If you have experienced discrimination based on pregnancy, you might want to talk to the attorneys at Swartz Swidler.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act is a federal law that amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This law clarifies that pregnancy discrimination is a type of unlawful sex discrimination. The PDA prohibits workplace discrimination against employees and applicants based on pregnancy, related medical conditions, and childbirth. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act covers employers that have at least 15 employees, including private and government employers.
Basic requirements of the PDA
Under the PDA, employers must treat women who are pregnant or who are affected by related medical conditions in the same way that they treat other employees or applicants who have similar temporarily disabling conditions. All aspects of employment are covered, including hiring, promotions, firing, and benefits. Workers are protected against discrimination based on current, potential, or past pregnancies.
Employers are prohibited from firing, refusing to hire, demoting, or taking other adverse employment actions based on pregnancy, related medical conditions, or childbirth. Employers also may not discriminate against women based on past pregnancies or related medical conditions. Finally, employers are prohibited from discriminating against workers based on their intent to become pregnant at some point. These prohibitions exist even when an employer discriminates because the employer believes that it is in the worker’s interests to do so.
The PDA prohibits discrimination by employers based on medical conditions that are related to pregnancy. If a female worker needs accommodations because of a pregnancy-related medical condition, the employer must treat the worker in the same way as the employer treats other workers with temporary medical conditions. For example, an employer cannot discriminate against a worker because of her need to pump breastmilk for her infant during short breaks during the day.
Temporary disability and pregnancy
In some cases, a woman might be temporarily unable to return to work because of her pregnancy. In this case, the employer must treat the worker the same way that other workers are treated. For example, if a worker is allowed to take time off from work following a car accident because of his or her injuries, a pregnant woman who is told to remain on bed rest should be treated similarly and allowed to return when her condition improves.
Pregnant workers who are temporarily disabled from pregnancy-related medical conditions must also have the same rules as other workers for accruing seniority, benefits, vacation time, and pay increases. If a worker is forced to miss work because of childbirth, pregnancy, or related medical conditions, the employer must hold her job open in the same way and for the same duration that it would for a worker who is on leave for a different illness or disability. Pregnancy leave might be required to be provided under state law or the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, depending on the state and the employer’s size.
Federal or state leave
While some employers offer leave to workers who have temporary disabilities, there are also state and federal leave laws that might also mandate this type of leave. The Family and Medical Leave Act is a federal law that covers employers with 50 or more workers who work within a radius of 75 miles. Pregnant workers who have worked for a covered employer for at least 12 months before the date of leave for up to 1,250 hours must be allowed to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off from work to care for a pregnancy-related medical condition or to give birth to a child. This type of leave can be taken intermittently or in one large chunk. It is a type of job-protected leave, meaning that the worker must either be returned to the same position or to one that is substantially similar in terms of hours, duties, and rate of pay.
New Jersey has a state family and medical leave law. Under this law, workers can take up to 12 weeks of time off from work in 24 months to care for a newborn or a newly adopted child. To qualify under this law, the workers must work for an employer with 50 or more employees and have worked at least 1,000 hours during the 12 previous months before the leave is taken.
New Jersey also has a temporary disability program. Through this program, workers who are temporarily not able to work because of pregnancy can receive up to 66% of their normal wages for up to six weeks.
Contact an experienced employment law and discrimination attorney
If your employer or a prospective employer discriminated against you because of pregnancy, you may have legal rights. Similarly, if your employer has wrongfully denied your leave request for a pregnancy-related medical condition, you might also want to talk to an experienced employment law and discrimination attorney at Swartz Swidler. We can review the facts and circumstances of what occurred and provide you with an honest assessment of whether your rights under the PDA or FMLA may have been violated. Contact us today to learn about your legal options by calling our office at 856.685.7420.