For the purpose of U.S. employment law, pregnancy is classed, in many cases, as a temporary disability. While it is true that many women will not find pregnancy disabling, it is classed this way because someone out on short-term disability due to pregnancy is entitled to the protection of the law with regard to their job. If you are in a situation where you are not receiving this protection, you may be able to bring suit or to file a charge with the appropriate authority to receive your due.
State & Federal Law
Most law governing pregnancy-based discrimination are federal in nature, chief among them being the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), passed in 1978 to amend Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It explicitly bans any discrimination in any area of employment (hiring and firing, promotion, training, and the like) based on pregnancy, conditions related to pregnancy, or conditions related to pregnancy. It also helps clarify what constitutes harassment of a pregnant worker, as many people are unclear as to the legal standard of harassment as opposed to mere teasing.
The state of South Carolina has few laws surrounding the rights of pregnant workers, which means that federal law applies. This does not mean that you are precluded from going to SCHAC with your complaint, but it does mean that the guidelines propagated by the EEOC will be used, since none specifically for South Carolina exist. If the agency is unable to assist you, all this means for the long run is that any suit you bring would have to be mounted in federal court, rather than state court.
Treatment Must Be The Same
Federal law holds that if a woman becomes unable to perform her job due to pregnancy (or due to a condition related to pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes or preeclampsia), she should be treated in exactly the same manner as any other employee who becomes temporarily disabled. If another employee would receive, for example, light duty or different shifts, an employee on short-term disability due to pregnancy must also receive the same. This also applies to leave policies under law such as the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which permits 12 weeks’ unpaid (or paid, if the employee has earned it) leave for the birth of a child and recovering from pregnancy, just as it does for the recovery from any other temporary disability.
If your employer refuses to grant you appropriate accommodations, you have options, but the most commonly pursued is to bring a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission (SCHAC). Be advised that if you pursue this route, you may not bring suit at the same time – the agency will evaluate your claim, and if they are unable to assist you, they will issue what is called a right-to-sue letter. Without this, you are not permitted to proceed.
Contact An Employment Discrimination Attorney
A pregnancy should be a happy time, but it takes very little to create stress and uncertainty. If you believe your employer is neglecting your short-term disability due to pregnancy, consulting an attorney can help you understand your options. Attorney A. Christopher Potts has experience in these cases and is ready to help you decide the best path. Contact our North Charleston office today to set up an appointment.