Pregnancy discrimination is illegal – a law that some employers often forget, but if you’re pregnant, it’s a law that you need to know about.
Although in today’s hard economic times, people are being laid off left and right. But if you are singled out and let go, just because you’re pregnant, this is called pregnancy discrimination and it is against the law.
Maternal discrimination falls under sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. An employer who has at least 15 employees cannot discriminate you on the “basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.” Under the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), pregnant women have to be treated in the same manner as other applicants or employees who have similar abilities.
How are You Legally Protected in Pregnancy?
Under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, a pregnant woman has the following protections:
1. A company of 15 employees (or more) cannot refuse to hire a pregnant woman, simply because she is pregnant.
2. An employer can’t fire a pregnant woman because she’s expecting.
3. If the pregnant woman is temporarily unable to do her job, because of her pregnancy, a company has to treat her like any other temporarily disabled employee.
4. Pregnant women must be allowed to work for as long as they can perform their jobs.
5. If a mom-to-be is absent from work, due to a pregnancy-related problem, and she gets better, her employer may not require her to stay on leave until her baby is born.
6. A company cannot have a rule that prevents employees from going back to work for a predetermined length of time after giving birth.
7. By law, an employer has to keep a pregnant woman’s job open the same amount of time it would for an employee on sick leave or disability leave.
8. Any company provided health insurance has to cover pregnancy-related health expenses, just like it would for other medical conditions. A company does not have to pay health insurance for expenses related to an abortion, except when the woman’s life was in danger.
9. Pregnancy-related benefits aren’t just limited to married employees. Single pregnant women should have the same benefits. If a company provides benefits to workers on leave, it has to give the same benefits for women on pregnancy-related leave.
10. Pregnant women on leave, due to their pregnancy, must be treated the same as a temporarily disabled employee.
It is also illegal to retaliate or punish an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate against pregnant women. You also cannot punish or fire them for filing a discrimination charge, testifying or participating in a discrimination investigation or ligation.
The bottom line is that a company cannot refuse to hire a pregnant woman, and it cannot demote a pregnant woman because she’s with child. Being pregnant is similar to a temporarily disabled employee.
Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuits on the Rise
Despite the fact that pregnant women are protected under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, employers don’t always follow the law. There is an increase in pregnancy discrimination charge filings and discrimination lawsuits.
Pregnancy discrimination lawsuits by the EEOC have increased from less than 6 in the 1990s, to 16 or more lawsuits annual since 2001. That’s a threefold increase in lawsuits. That’s just lawsuits that they’ve filed. Every year, the EEOC receives over 6,000 pregnancy discrimination complaints.