Pregnancy is usually a very happy event for most women. It is news one looks forward to sharing with all her friends and family including those people with whom she spends a significant part of her life-her coworkers. Your initial urge, once you learn of your own pregnancy, may be to rush into work to tell everyone your good news. However, even when this is an event that makes you very happy, you are well advised to initially keep your news out of the office. Before you say anything to your boss or coworkers you should make a point of knowing your legal rights, namely those protected by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, and other related laws.
THE PREGNANCY DISCRIMINATION ACT
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”) of 1978 is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It prohibits employers from discriminating against workers based on pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. It affects only companies that employ 15 or more people. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The Act requires covered entities to treat these women in the same manner as other applicants or employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work. The PDA covers all aspects of employment, including firing, hiring, promotions, and fringe benefits (such as leave and health insurance benefits). Pregnant workers are protected from discrimination based on current pregnancy, past pregnancy, and potential pregnancy.
A covered entity must treat a pregnant woman who cannot perform her job due to a medical condition related to her pregnancy the same way he treats all temporarily disabled employees. Also, an employer may not keep a pregnant woman from working and may not prohibit a woman from returning to work after giving birth. Any employer-provided health insurance plan must treat pregnancy-related conditions the same as it treats other medical conditions. Similarly, pregnant employees cannot be asked to pay a larger health insurance deductible than other employees do.
Current & Past Pregnancy
Under the PDA, an employer cannot fire, refuse to hire, demote, or take any other adverse action against a woman if pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition was a motivating factor in the adverse employment action. This is true even if the employer believes it is acting in the employee’s best interest during or at the end of her pregnancy or leave status. The same standard applies as a covered entity may not discriminate against an employee or applicant based on a past pregnancy or pregnancy-related medical condition or childbirth. Potential Pregnancy. An employer may not discriminate based on an employee’s intention or potential to become pregnant. Concerns about risks to a pregnant employee or her fetus will rarely, if ever, justify sex-specific job restrictions for a woman of childbearing capacity.
Medical Condition Related to Pregnancy or Childbirth
An employer may not discriminate against an employee because of a medical condition related to pregnancy and must treat the employee the same as others who are similar in their ability or inability to work but are not affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.
THE FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE ACT
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (“FMLA”), as amended, allows eligible employees of employers with 50 or more employees to take up to 12 workweeks of leave for the birth and care of the employee’s child. Employers also restore the employee to the employee’s original job or to an equivalent job with equivalent pay, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment.
THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), as amended, (“ADAAA”) may provide coverage as well. Although pregnancy itself is not a disability, pregnant workers may have impairments related to their pregnancies that qualify as disabilities under the ADAAA, such as pregnancy-related carpal tunnel syndrome, gestational diabetes, and other premature conditions in a child. An employer may not discriminate against an individual whose pregnancy-related impairment is a disability under the ADAAA and must provide an individual with a reasonable accommodation if needed because of a pregnancy-related disability, unless the accommodation would result in significant difficulty or expense (“undue hardship”).
THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) is a 2010 federal statute signed by President Obama that requires employers to provide “reasonable break time” for hourly employees to generate breast milk until the child’s first birthday. Employers are required to provide “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.” Employers with fewer than 50 employees are not subject to this requirement if it “would impose an undue hardship by causing significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to the size, nature, or structure of the employer’s business.”