The Pregnancy Discrimination Act has made it illegal since 1978 for employers with 15 or more employees to discriminate against women who are pregnant, intend to become pregnant, or have recently been pregnant.
But what rights, exactly, are you afforded as a result of the PDA?
The PDA protects women against discrimination for potential or actual motherhood.
You can't be fired because you're pregnant, nursing, or intend to become pregnant. A potential employer also can't ask you if you have children or plan on having children in the near future. You can't be refused a job just because you are pregnant.
This includes jobs that might require you to stand, lift heavy objects, or otherwise be fairly active. As long as you're capable of performing the job and want to do so, your employer can't reassign you or transfer you to another position. There are several key points to remember:
- Your employer has to hold your job for you while you're on maternity leave or out for pregnancy-related complications for the same amount of time that he or she would for another employee who was off work due to a medical condition.
- Keep in mind that a normal pregnancy is not considered a disability, but a complicated pregnancy that requires bed rest or other treatment is considered a medical impairment and entitled to special consideration and treatment.
You also cannot be treated differently because you had a child. In other words, it's illegal to put a woman on the so-called "mommy track" and bypass her for promotions or give her a lateral move into a dead-end position simply because she's now a mother.
The PDA also treats lactation as a medical condition that requires accommodation.
If you're nursing, your employer has to treat that as a pregnancy-related condition and cannot discriminate against you because of your lactation schedule. That means that you can take the time to express your milk, as necessary, without fear of reprisal.
The PDA still falls short when it comes to changing people's attitudes.
All that being said, many women still face pregnancy discrimination, and it remains one of the top complaints received through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It's also one of the most frequently successful types of cases—one out of every four complaints received by the EEOC over pregnancy discrimination are resolved in the worker's favor.
If you believe that you're facing pregnancy discrimination, you need to act fast. File a discrimination charge with the EEOC first, in order to preserve your right to sue, if it becomes necessary. Then, talk to an attorney familiar with pregnancy discrimination cases for more specific advice about your case. For instance, consider a law firm like Law Office of Faye Riva Cohen, P.C.