Pregnancy is an exciting and emotional time in a person’s life. It can feel like there is so much to do before the baby arrives; from a healthy delivery to making sure you have enough savings in your bank account. You do not need another thing to worry about, especially your job security.
Fortunately, there are both state and federal laws which protect employees against wrongful discrimination based on their pregnancy status or disability as a result of pregnancy. If you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, it is important to know your rights and how you and your family are protected under these laws.
What is pregnancy discrimination?
According to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, pregnancy discrimination is unfavorable treatment towards a woman due to her pregnancy or pregnancy-related condition.
This type of discrimination is unlawful at any stage of hiring, employment, or termination. It is illegal to deny someone a job, demote or refuse to promote, decrease pay rate, or terminate employment due to a person’s pregnancy status or desire to become pregnant, intention of becoming pregnant, or possibility of pregnancy.
Pregnancy discrimination also includes a variety of actions. As a pregnant employee, you are not just protected from being fired or demoted due to pregnancy, but it is also unlawful for an employer to deny you reasonable accommodations due to pregnancy status, including a time and place to express milk, or deny you time off following the birth of your child.
What are discriminatory employment actions?
Any discriminatory action against you in the workplace is unlawful. Some of the most common discriminatory employment actions due to an employee’s pregnancy status include:
- Refusing to hire;
- Laying off;
- Denying benefits, such as paid time off and health insurance;
- Assigning lesser or inferior jobs;
- Terminations/Firing; or
- Any other term or condition of employment.
What are reasonable accommodations?
Your employer is required to provide you with reasonable accommodations if, with those accommodations, you are still able to adequately perform your job duties. Reasonable accommodations are determined by considering whether this request would cause undue hardship to the employer. If not, it may be a reasonable request.
Some reasonable accommodations in regard to pregnancy may include:
- Time off to attend doctors’ appointments;
- Adjusting work schedules to accommodate for severe morning sickness;
- Allowing the employee to sit during her shift; and
- Weight restrictions related to lifting heavy objects.
What laws protect me from pregnancy discrimination?
There are both state and federal laws which protect employees from discrimination based on pregnancy.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1965, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or any other pregnancy-related medical conditions.
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal statute which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. This includes pregnancy and limitations as a result of pregnancy.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows employees up to 12 weeks of leave per year due to the birth of a child, the placement of a child via adoption or foster care, the care of an immediate family member with a serious health condition, or the serious health condition of the employee. While this is unpaid, the employee may not lose their job due to her leave of absence under this federal statute. Employees also enjoy continuation of their health insurance and benefits as if they had never taken a leave from work.
The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against an employee or potential employee based upon the individual’s status as a protected class. In California, protected classes of people include:
- Race, color
- Ancestry, national origin
- Religion, creed
- Age (over 40)
- Disability, mental and physical
- Sex, gender (including pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding or related medical conditions)
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity, gender expression
- Medical condition
- Genetic information
- Marital status
- Military and veteran status
The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) is similar to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), however there are a few significant differences. The CFRA also allows employees up to 12 weeks of leave during a 12-month period for the same reasons allowable in the FMLA, but the CFRA also provides leave to care for a registered domestic partner who is experiencing a serious medical condition rather than only a spouse, child, or parent.
The California New Parent Leave Act (NPLA) allows employees to take time off to bond with a new child or a child newly placed for adoption or foster care. This Act requires the employer to provide the employee with a guarantee of employment security and reinstatement prior to beginning parental leave.
The California Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (PDL) specifically protects employees who are experiencing a disability resulting from pregnancy. Typically, the employee’s medical team will recommend how long the leave should be, according to your health condition, medical history, and other personal details, however this law does allow for up to four month of leave per pregnancy.
The California Paid Family Leave (PFL) allows employees time off work to bond with a new child following the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of the child. This also includes protections for employees to take time off work to care for a seriously ill family member, such as a child, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or registered domestic partner. It is important to note that this statute only protects monetary benefits but does not provide job security or protection. However, your job may be protected through other state or federal laws.
This article was originally published by V. James DeSimone Law on August 20, 2019. Reprinted with permission.