Pregnancy discrimination in the workplace and other aspects of employment is prohibited under the Federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, abortion and related medical conditions.
Did you know? Childbirth is a valid reason to take family or medical leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for both the mother and father. Such leave is typically called maternity leave for the mother and paternity leave for the father.
Private- and public-sector employers with 15 or more employees are bound by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, as are employment agencies and labor unions.
Those bound by the Act cannot rightfully discriminate against pregnant employees and job candidates in the workplace or in any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, promotion and benefits.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act was an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits several types of employment discrimination.
Pregnancy discrimination is generally considered to be a form of illegal sex discrimination under the Acts. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces both Acts.
States and municipalities may enact laws that are equivalent to the Federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Such laws are enforced by state and local, EEOC equivalents. Depending on the circumstances, employees are protected by whichever law at the Federal, state or local level has the most generous provisions.
If you reasonably believe that your employer has discriminated against you because of pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition, then you may file a pregnancy discrimination charge with the EEOC. Filing a charge will cause the EEOC to act on your behalf or preserve your right to seek relief through a private, pregnancy discrimination lawsuit.
In fact, you or your lawyer or other representative must file a charge with the EEOC to preserve your right under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act to seek relief through a private lawsuit.
To properly handle its caseload, the EEOC aggressively pursues only the most compelling of the thousands of discrimination charges it receives annually. If it doesn't take your case to court, then you may request a "right-to-sue" letter that entitles you to file a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit in Federal court.
Consequently, it might be a good idea to consult a pregnancy discrimination lawyer before filing a charge with the EEOC. A lawyer will help you to properly collect evidence and file a more compelling charge in legalese, to increase your chances that the EEOC lawyers will see it your way. Lawyers often take discrimination cases on contingency.
Whether you file a discrimination charge or consult a lawyer first, don't delay too long; a statute of limitations applies.
An employer cannot rightfully retaliate against an employee who exercises her rights under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, such as filing a pregnancy discrimination charge with the EEOC, consulting a lawyer, filing a private lawsuit in court or participating in related proceedings. An employer also cannot rightfully retaliate against employees who testify as witnesses during the proceedings.
For more information about the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, read Pregnancy Discrimination at the Web site of the EEOC.
Did you know? The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ("health care reform bill" passed in March 2010) requires employers to reasonably provide unpaid work breaks in private areas for nursing mothers "to express breast milk." However, employers with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from the law if they can prove undue hardship.