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The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978

How the Law Protects You From Pregnancy Discrimination at Work


Working pregnant woman

How can the Pregnancy Discrimination Act protect you?

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Under most circumstances, when a woman finds out she is pregnant, her initial urge is to shout the news from the nearest rooftop. However, even when this is a blessed event, you are well-advised to initially keep your news out of the office. Before you say anything you should know your rights, namely those protected by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978.

What is the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978?

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It prohibits employers from discriminating against workers based on pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. It affects only companies that employ 15 or more people. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

How Does the Pregnancy Discrimination Act Protect You?

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Pregnancy Discrimination Act requires employers to treat pregnant women the same way they do other employees or job applicants. Here are several ways in which pregnant women are protected:
  • An employer cannot refuse to hire someone because she is pregnant or has a pregnancy-related condition.
  • An employer can't require a pregnant women to submit to special procedures in order to determine whether she can perform her job duties unless the employer requires all employees to submit to those procedures.
  • An employer must treat a pregnant woman who can't perform her job due to a medical condition related to her pregnancy the same way he treats all temporarily disabled employees.
  • An employer may not keep a pregnant woman from working or prohibit a woman from returning to work after giving birth.
  • Any employer-provided health insurance plan must treat pregnancy-related conditions the same as other medical conditions.
  • Pregnant employees cannot pay a larger health insurance deductible than other employees pay.

What To Do If Your Boss Fails to Abide by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act?

According to "How to Protect Yourself Against Pregnancy Discrimination" (Susan Freinkel, "How to Protect Yourself Against Pregnancy Discrimination," Babytalk, April 1998, 75-76), many women are fired or passed over for a promotion after they announce their pregnancy. The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) received 6,196 charges of pregnancy-based discrimination in 2009 (Pregnancy Discrimination. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). Clearly, many employers are disregarding the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. If you feel your boss has failed to abide by it, you can file a charge with the EEOC. Go to the EEOC Web Site and read the rules for Filing a Charge of Employment Discrimination.

Another Federal Law That Protects the Rights of Pregnant Women

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) allows pregnant women to take time off for childbirth or due to complications related to pregnancy, or to care for a newborn.

Source: Pregnancy Discrimination. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission.

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