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The Pregnancy Discrimination Act & Wrongful Termination

When one hears of sex discrimination, one generally assumes that a woman is being discriminated against simply because they are female. However, this is not always the case. Many times, discrimination will occur because of perceived problems brought about by pregnancy. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed to combat problems where employers either discriminate on the basis of gender or on the basis of temporary disability.

What Does It Cover?

The initial impetus for the passage of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) came after the decision in the case of General Electric v. Gilbert (1976), which expressly held that pregnancy was not a form of sex discrimination. Another case with similar outcomes, Geduldig v. Aiello (1974), denied pregnant women the insurance benefits that would come to other employees who experienced loss of work time due to disability. These two cases, as well as other minor matters which routinely held that pregnancy was not a covered condition, led to the passage of the PDA in 1978.

In addition to discriminating against women, pregnancy is also classified under this Act as a temporary disability, and as such, it is considered disability discrimination to deny equal treatment to pregnant employees. If a disabled employee would normally be granted leave to do things such as taking time off or being restricted to light duty, a pregnant employee must be permitted to do the same. The employee’s job must also be retained for them while they are on leave, as this is required for those taking leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and other similar laws.

Filing Under The PDA

If you believe you have been discriminated against, consider filing a charge either with your state’s human rights commission (in South Carolina, the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission) or with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Generally, the time in which a charge must be filed is 180 days, but the EEOC holds that if there is a regulation in the state where you are filing that covers the same issues, the deadline is extended to 300 days.

You may allege discrimination in any aspect of employment, from the hiring process to the termination process and issues of leave. Be advised that conditions relating to pregnancy, such as preeclampsia or gestational diabetes, may also be considered temporary disabilities under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). These conditions and others may need to be accommodated if it can be done without undue hardship. The status of pregnancy can give rise to a host of comorbid issues, and jurisprudence generally does not support being able to discriminate based on a difficult versus an easy pregnancy any more than it does based on pregnant women versus other employees.

Contact a Knowledgeable Employment Attorney

Having a baby should be an enjoyable and exciting moment in one’s life, but too often it turns into a complex situation where one’s job security may be at stake. Attorney A. Christopher Potts and his Charleston employment discrimination firm are happy to listen to your case and assist you in determining the best course of action for the future.

Contact us today to set up an appointment.


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