The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978
The Title VII Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) . Title VII is there to protect individuals against many forms of discrimination based on sex when it comes to hiring, firing, work conditions, promotions, etc. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act was enacted to clarify that discriminating against a pregnancy, child birth, or other related medical conditions of an employee or applicant is a form of discrimination. PDA requires that pregnant employees are treated the same as non-pregnant employees who are similar in their ability or inability to perform their work.
Assuming the pregnant employee is covered with insurance, the PDA prevents an employer from changing the individuals benefits because they are pregnant or have given birth. It requires the employer to give a leave of absence to the employee who suffers from a pregnancy-related condition if the employer provides that protection to people who are disabled in some way, including suffering from an illness or a complex fracture.
What is Pregnancy Discrimination?
Pregnancy discrimination involves treating women (applicants or employees) unfavorably because they are pregnant. Pregnancy discrimination can include all of the following actions by an employer:
- Refusing to hire someone because they are pregnant
- Firing or demoting a pregnant employee
- Denying the same or similar job to an employee who just got back from a pregnancy-related leave
- Treating a pregnant employee differently than another temporarily disabled employee
Under the law, a pregnancy is considered a temporary disability, which can include severe morning sickness, doctor ordered bed rest, childbirth and recovery from childbirth. Therefore, your employer must treat the pregnant employee the same way they would treat other temporarily disabled employees.
Occupations and workplaces where pregnancy discrimination is common include:
- Doctors’ Offices And Healthcare Fields
- Housekeeping And Janitorial Workers
- Administrative Assistants
- Dental Offices
- Bars and Restaurants
Who is Protected Under the Law?
Title VII prohibits discrimination based on current pregnancy, past pregnancy, potential pregnancy, or medical conditions related to pregnancy or child birth. Federal law protects pregnant women who can qualify for disability leave under a company policy, who work for employers with 15 or more employees, or who work for an employment agency or labor union. Smaller employers may not be required to offer pregnancy leave or any other disability leave under Title VII or FMLA; however, they may be required by state law.
Pregnant women must be given the opportunity to work for as long as they are willing and are able to. Employers may not force a leave of absence earlier than the individual would like to. If an employee decides to take a short break from work on account of her pregnancy-related condition, she cannot be forced to extend that break until the birth of her child. Employers are also prohibited from forcing employees to stay home from work for a period of time after the child is born.
What Rights Does A Pregnant Woman Have At Work?
Under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) and other federal statutes including the US Pregnancy Discrimination Act, your employer has a responsibility to prevent pregnancy discrimination and provide pregnant employees with reasonable accommodation. Pregnant women should be treated no differently than any other employee. Indeed, in 2014, New Jersey amended the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) to make it unequivocal that a pregnancy accommodation that is intertwined with punishment, is not by definition, a reasonable accommodation but is an unlawful employment practice. N.J.S.A. 10:5-12(s).
According to the New Jersey Department of Civil Rights, a pregnant woman has the right to work as long as she is able to perform her job. When she is no longer able to work, employers are required to give them the same considerations for disability leave or leave without pay as they would a temporarily disabled employee, and hold the job open for the same length of time.
Under the Family Medical Leave Act, any employee who has worked for at least 12 months for an employer with a certain number of employees may be eligible for 12 weeks of paid or unpaid leave to care for their new child, including foster and adopted children.
Retaliation Due To Maternity Leave Discrimination
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for employers to unlawfully retaliate when employees take maternity leave. Thankfully, New Jersey state and federal laws, including the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, exist to protect individuals against retaliatory acts by an employer for protected activity such as taking maternity leave. Retaliation can include termination, demotion, unfair disciplinary measures, or any other unfavorable action. If you are subjected to workplace retaliation for putting your child first, the pregnancy discrimination lawyers at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. may be able to protect your career.
Our Pregnancy Discrimination Attorneys Can Help You
If you believe your employer has discriminated against you based on pregnancy and want to explore your legal options, you should contact our pregnancy discrimination lawyers first to discuss your rights and options. Contacting knowledgeable and experienced employment attorneys like those at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. will ensure that your career is protected. Call or contact us today to schedule a free consultation.