Pregnancy discrimination occurs when an employer treats a female applicant or employee unfavorably because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”) of 1978, which is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits (such as leave and health insurance), and any other term or condition of employment. Employers that employ fifteen or more people are subject to the PDA. This blog explains your rights under the PDA.
Can a prospective employer refuse to hire you because you are pregnant?
An employer cannot refuse to hire you because of the employer’s prejudice against pregnant employees or because of the prejudices of co-workers, clients, or customers. Furthermore, an employer cannot refuse to hire you because of your pregnancy-related condition as long as you are able to perform the major functions of the job.
If your employer knows that you are pregnant or may become pregnant, could you get fired?
Under the PDA, employers are prohibited from discriminating against you based on the fact that:
- you are pregnant;
- you were pregnant;
- you could become pregnant or intend to become pregnant;
- you have a medical condition that is related to pregnancy; or
- you had an abortion or are considering having an abortion.
In general, this means that you cannot be fired, rejected for a job or promotion, given reduced assignments, or forced to take leave for any of the abovementioned reasons. An employer cannot remove you from your job or place you on leave because the employer believes that work would pose a risk to you or your pregnancy.
What if I am being harassed because of pregnancy or a pregnancy-related medical condition?
Harassment based on pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth is unlawful under the PDA. Harassment is illegal when it is so severe or frequent that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted). If you are being harassed because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a pregnancy-related medical condition, you should report it to your employer. Once you report the harassment, your employer is legally required to take action to prevent it from occurring in the future.
What if I am having difficulty doing my job because of pregnancy or a medical condition related to my pregnancy?
You may be able to get an accommodation from your employer that will allow you to do your job safely. Examples of accommodations include altered break and work schedules, permission to sit or stand, ergonomic office furniture, shift changes, elimination of marginal job functions, and permission to work from home. You may also be able to get an accommodation if your employer gives accommodations to employees who have limitations that are similar to yours but are not caused by pregnancy.
You may be able to get an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) if you have a pregnancy-related medical condition that meets the ADA definition of “disability.” However, the ADA does not require your employer to make changes that involve significant expense or difficulty.
While the passage of the PDA was an important step forward for women, it has not ended discriminatory employment practices targeting pregnant women. Pregnancy discrimination remains a widespread problem across all industries. If you have any questions about pregnancy discrimination occurring in the workplace, contact our Minneapolis lawyers to discuss your employment situation.