Despite strides in gender equality, pregnant women still face discrimination in today’s workplace. Adverse treatment of pregnant women often stems from stereotypes and assumptions about their capabilities and job commitment. Employment decisions based on such stereotypes or assumptions are illegal under state and federal law.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”) was enacted in 1978 to make clear that discrimination based on pregnancy is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Additionally, the Minnesota Human Rights Act specifically recognizes sex as a protected class and prohibits employers from treating women differently because of their pregnancy status and their capacity to become pregnant.
Know Your Rights as a Pregnant Employee
An employer cannot refuse to hire, demote, terminate, or take any other adverse action against a woman if pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition was a motivating factor in the employer’s adverse employment action. As long as the employee is able to perform her job, an employer may not force her to take a leave because she is or has been pregnant. Requiring leave violates the PDA even if the employer believes it is acting in the best interests of the employee. That being said, an employer must treat an employee who is temporarily unable to perform the functions of her job because of her pregnancy or a related medical condition the same way it treats other employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work, whether by providing alternative assignments or modified tasks.
Although pregnancy itself is not a disability, pregnancy-related impairments can be disabilities if they substantially limit one or more major life activities. An employer must provide a reasonable accommodation to a worker with such a pregnancy-related impairment who requests one. Examples of reasonable accommodations include modifying the work schedule of an employee who experiences severe morning sickness so she can arrive later than her usual start time and leave later to make up the time; purchasing equipment, such as a stool for a pregnant employee who needs to sit while performing tasks that are typically performed while standing; and modifying workplace policies, such as allowing a pregnant employee more frequent breaks or permitting her to have a water bottle at her workstation even though it is generally prohibited.
Lastly, offensive jokes, name-calling, threats, insults, or offensive pictures that are motivated by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions may constitute unlawful harassment. Whether the conduct is sufficiently hostile to constitute unlawful harassment depends on the severity or frequency of the conduct. If you have been discriminated against by your employer because of your pregnancy status or your capacity to become pregnant, please contact a pregnancy discrimination lawyer Minnesota or an employment lawyer in Minnesota.