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9 Examples of Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace in 2024

Pregnancy discrimination occurs when a woman is treated unfavorably because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth. This type of discrimination is prohibited by federal law under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), which is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
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What are Some Examples of Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace?

According to Embroker, pregnancy discrimination encompasses all forms of unfavorable treatment throughout the employment process [1]. This includes actions like employers asking about family planning, which is prohibited. Employees and job seekers are not required to disclose pregnancy-related information at any point.

There are three primary types of pregnancy-based discrimination:

  • Discrimination during the hiring process
  • Discrimination during pregnancy
  • Discrimination upon returning to work

Unfavorable treatment due to pregnancy can range from firing pregnant workers to retaliating against them or preventing them from taking necessary time off. If an employee is treated worse because of pregnancy or pregnancy-related leave requests, it constitutes discrimination.

Discrimination During the Hiring Process

During the hiring process, managers cannot ask about a person’s pregnancy status or future family plans. This information cannot be used in making hiring decisions. However, candidates can inquire about insurance coverage, benefits, and maternity leave policies.

Discrimination of Workers During Pregnancy

Employees are not required to inform their employers of their pregnancy unless they need related benefits or accommodations. In such cases, they may need to provide a doctor’s note.

Reasonable Accommodation

Reasonable accommodation must be provided if a worker has a high-risk pregnancy or cannot perform certain tasks due to pregnancy-related issues. Employers must treat pregnant workers the same as those with disabilities or illnesses, providing necessary benefits.

Maternity Leave

Maternity leave, often short-term disability leave, can be paid or unpaid depending on state laws and FMLA eligibility. Employers must maintain health insurance benefits for pregnant workers during maternity leave.

Pregnancy-Related Harassment

Pregnancy-related harassment, which includes negative treatment due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related health conditions, is illegal. This applies to all parties in the workplace, including employers, managers, colleagues, and clients.

Pregnancy Discrimination Upon Returning to Work

Upon returning to work, employers cannot change a pregnant employee’s job or role unless the change involves a promotion or position with equal or higher pay.

What is the U.S. Pregnancy Discrimination Act?

As stated by Wikipedia, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978 is a federal law in the United States that amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 [2].

It specifically prohibits sex discrimination based on pregnancy. Here are key points about the PDA:

  • The PDA covers discrimination related to “pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.”
  • Employers with fewer than 15 employees are exempt from the Act.
  • While employers are not required to provide medical coverage for elective abortions, they are mandated to provide disability and sick leave for women recovering from an abortion if the mother’s life is not threatened.
  • Pregnancy is considered a temporary disability under the law, meaning that pregnant employees are entitled to the same treatment as disabled employees. Discrimination against pregnant employees that violates disability standards is also considered a violation of the PDA.

If an employee is temporarily unable to perform her job due to pregnancy, the employer must treat her the same as any other temporarily disabled employee; for example, by providing light duty, modified tasks, alternative assignments, disability leave, or leave without pay.

An employer may have to provide a reasonable accommodation for a disability related to pregnancy, absent undue hardship (significant difficulty or expense).

What to do if You Experienced Discrimination

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission notice, if you are a job applicant or employee and you believe that an employer has discriminated against you because of your pregnancy or a pregnancy-related disability. In that case, you have the option to file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) [3].

You can file a complaint with the appropriate federal agency for Federal job applicants or employees facing this situation.

Workplace Pregnancy Discrimination Statistics

This discrimination occurs across different stages:

  • 27% reported experiencing discrimination during pregnancy.
  • 32% reported facing discrimination when requesting or taking parental leave.
  • 35% reported discrimination upon returning to work after parental leave, with 34% related to family responsibilities and 8% related to breastfeeding or expressing milk.

According to the Human Rights Commission, nearly half of mothers, 49%, have reported facing discrimination in the workplace at various stages of pregnancy, parental leave, or upon returning to work [4].

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