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Am I Experiencing Pregnancy Discrimination?

Pregnancy discrimination is one of the most misunderstood types of employment discrimination. While pregnancy is recognized as a temporary disability, and thus is entitled to certain protections under the law, this does not mean that employers cannot take appropriate action if the situation warrants it. If you believe that you are experiencing pregnancy discrimination, it can help to be familiar with what the law permits and what it does not.

No Disparate Treatment

Discrimination is defined as unfair or disparate treatment explicitly on the basis of a protected characteristic. Most of the time, the ‘protected’ characteristics at issue are listed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Examples of protected characteristics under Title VII include race, sex, and national origin. Pregnancy was added later. When the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed in 1978, it amended Title VII explicitly to include pregnancy in the list of ‘protected’ characteristics—more specifically, “pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.”

It is forbidden by law to discriminate in any area of employment, from hiring to firing, solely on the basis of a protected characteristic. If an employee fails to perform the functions of their job, an employer is allowed to address the issue. But any negative employment action must come on the basis of the employee’s performance, rather than on the basis of their race, color, sex, national origin, pregnancy, or any other protected characteristic. If a pregnant employee does not complete their job quota continually, and their reasons for failure have nothing to do with their pregnancy, their employer may discipline them accordingly.

Similar To Disability

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act characterizes pregnancy as a type of temporary disability. As such, employers are generally advised to treat pregnant employees as being temporarily disabled. This label will define a lot of what accommodations you are entitled to. Generally speaking, employers are not required to provide reasonable accommodations for issues that other temporarily disabled workers would not provide, though there are exceptions. The PDA does not, per se, give pregnant workers ‘special’ rights. It merely prevents pregnant workers from being treated differently than other workers.

It is worth mentioning that unlike many other states, South Carolina passed its own Pregnancy Accommodations Act in 2018. This law mandates that some requests from pregnant workers and those who have recently given birth must be complied with, unlike under the federal PDA, which does not require this. For example, the Act states that lactation rooms, more frequent bathroom breaks, and allowing an employee to sit instead of stand (when possible) are all examples of accommodations that should be granted unless there is a reasonable rationale to deny the request. Previously, an employer could simply deny a request if they had no incentive to grant it.

Contact A South Carolina Employment Discrimination Lawyer

It can be difficult to understand what pregnancy discrimination actually is and what it is not. If you fear you have been discriminated against because of your condition, speaking with an employment discrimination lawyer may be a good idea. Attorney A. Christopher Potts is familiar with the law surrounding pregnancy discrimination and is ready to work for you.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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