Learning that you are pregnant can be very exciting. Most women are happy to learn that they are expecting and want to tell their family, friends, and coworkers their good news. However, before you tell everyone at your workplace about your pregnancy, you should make sure that you understand the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the rights it provides to you. The employment lawyers at Swartz Swidler can help you to understand your rights and to protect them if you are subjected to workplace discrimination based on your pregnancy status.
What is pregnancy discrimination?
Pregnancy discrimination is a form of unlawful sex discrimination that is prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII specifically prohibits sex discrimination. In 1978, Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act to explicitly include pregnancy as a type of unlawful sex discrimination. Pregnancy discrimination occurs when an applicant or employee receives unfavorable treatment from an employer because of her pregnancy, a pregnancy-related medical condition, or childbirth.
Understanding the Pregnancy Discrimination Act
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 amended Title VII. This law was meant to protect women from workplace pregnancy discrimination. Under the PDA, employers are prohibited from engaging in discrimination against employees because of their pregnancies, medical conditions that are related to their pregnancies, or giving birth. The PDA covers employers that have 15 or more employees. However, pregnant workers in New Jersey who work for employers with fewer than 15 employees are protected against discrimination under the New Jersey Law. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is the federal agency that enforces the PDA.
What types of pregnancy discrimination are prohibited?
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act applies to all aspects of employment, including recruiting, interviewing, pay, promotions, job assignments, layoffs, opportunities for training, benefits, terminations, and all other aspects of employment. Employers are required to treat pregnant workers in the same way that they treat other similarly situated employees who have temporary disabilities.
If you are temporarily unable to perform your job duties because of a pregnancy-related medical condition, your employer must treat you in the same manner that other temporarily disabled employees are treated. For example, if your employer accommodates an employee who undergoes surgery after a car accident by offering light-duty, temporary disability leave, unpaid leave, or alternative assignments, you must also be given similar types of accommodations.
If you suffer from medical conditions that are caused by your pregnancy, you might also be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Under this law, your employer may have to grant your request for a reasonable accommodation to allow you to perform your job. To receive accommodations, you must request them. Your employer does not have to arbitrarily determine that you need accommodations and supply them to you if you do not ask for them. After you ask for accommodation, your employer must provide it to you unless doing so would place an undue hardship on your employer. Some examples of reasonable accommodations for pregnancy might include more frequent bathroom breaks, reduced hours, leave for pregnancy-related appointments, and others.
Harassment based on pregnancy
Harassment in the workplace based on your pregnancy, pregnancy-related medical condition, or childbirth is also an illegal form of sex discrimination. Harassment based on pregnancy is unlawful when the conduct is so severe and pervasive that it creates a hostile work environment. The person who engages in harassment can be your supervisor, a different supervisor, a co-worker, or a customer.
Disability leave, maternity leave, and parental leave
If your employer allows other employees who have a temporary disability to take unpaid leave or disability leave, you must also be allowed to take leave if you are temporarily disabled because of your pregnancy.
Your employer is not allowed to single you out because of your pregnancy for a special process to determine whether you can work. However, if your employer asks all of its employees to submit doctors’ statements about their ability to work before the leave is granted, you can be asked to get a note from your doctor before your leave is approved.
Other employment laws and pregnancy
The Family and Medical Leave Act also grants covered employees to take up to 12 weeks of leave from work within 12 months. Eligible employees include those who work for employers with 50 or more workers within a 75-mile radius. You are eligible to take job-protected leave under the FMLA if you have worked at least 1,250 hours for your employer and have been employed at your job for 12 or more months before the date of your leave request.
The FMLA is enforced by the Department of Labor. If you are nursing, you may be entitled to take breaks to express milk under the Fair Labor Standards Act. This law is enforced by the wage and hour division of the Department of Labor.
What to do if you have been the victim of workplace pregnancy discrimination
To enforce your rights under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, you will need to file a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Charges must be filed with the EEOC within 180 days of when the discriminatory act occurred. If you work for an employer that is not covered by the PDA, you can file a pregnancy discrimination charge with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. Your attorney can help you to gather supporting evidence for your charge.
Get help from the attorneys at Swartz Swidler
Pregnancy discrimination is illegal in the workplace. Despite the state and federal anti-discrimination laws, some employers continue to engage in discrimination against pregnant workers because of their pregnancies or pregnancy-related medical conditions. If you have suffered discrimination at your job because of your pregnancy, you may be entitled to recover damages, including back pay and job reinstatement. Schedule a free consultation with the employment lawyers at Swartz Swidler today by calling our office at (856) 685-7420.