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Discrimination Against Pregnant Women at Work

At the initial passage of the Civil Rights Act, pregnancy was not considered necessary to protect, which led to many women losing their jobs or benefits they had earned simply because they had children. It was not until 1978 that this oversight was remedied, but even today there are questions surrounding discrimination against pregnant women at work. Both employers and employees should be familiar with the rights granted to pregnant employees, so as to avoid missteps on either side.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) holds that it is illegal to discriminate against pregnant women, or against women who suffer from pregnancy or childbirth-related medical conditions. It allows for disability and sick leave to be paid to female employees if their condition persists past the normal recovery period. The act also holds that while employers are not required to pay for abortion costs unless the mother’s life is at risk, they are required to pay disability and sick leave just like with any other childbirth-related condition.

It is important to remember that the PDA applies to all aspects of work, including hiring, firing and human resources-related issues. For example, an employer cannot refuse to hire a pregnant woman who can still perform all the integral job functions. An employer is also prohibited from terminating or refusing to hire a pregnant woman based on the biases of their current workers. If a potential employee is able to perform the job’s functions, they may not be refused on the basis of mere prejudices or preferences.

Pregnancy as a Temporary Disability

Discrimination against pregnant women at work is a real issue. While some pregnant women are able to perform their jobs normally, some require accommodations. If this happens to you, it is generally treated as a temporary disability, which must be treated just the same as any other disability under the law. In other words, if any other disabled worker would be granted light duty or paid leave, a pregnant woman must be granted the same. The same holds true for medical leave policies—if workers with similar conditions are permitted to take medical leave, pregnant women must be permitted the same opportunity.

It is also important to note that under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, comorbid conditions relating to pregnancy also count. Issues like sciatica or gestational diabetes, both of which can affect physical and cognitive ability, are both covered under the PDA. If a worker has either of these conditions, whether temporary or not, an employer may not discriminate on any basis against the worker. Indeed, the employer must make reasonable accommodations for the disability unless they can show undue hardship, meaning an undue financial or personnel-related burden.

Get Help From a Workplace Discrimination Attorney

A pregnancy should generally be a joyous time for most women and their families. It should not create problems at work. If you have been the victim of discrimination against pregnancy in the workplace, you may have recourse against your employer. If you have questions, consult a Charleston employment discrimination attorney. Attorney A. Christopher Potts and his firm have experience with such cases, and will work to help ensure yours is settled satisfactorily.

Contact us today to set up an appointment.




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