What Does Pregnancy Discrimination Look Like?

What Does Pregnancy Discrimination Look Like?Georgia is a great place to raise children. But while many of the state’s employers say they are “family-friendly,” numerous pregnant women face employment challenges when they choose to start their families. Fortunately, federal laws against pregnancy discrimination in the workplace exist.

Both employers and employees must be aware of and comply with relevant anti-discrimination laws to ensure a fair and inclusive workplace environment for pregnant individuals. Employees who believe they have experienced pregnancy discrimination may file a complaint with relevant government agencies or pursue legal action to protect their rights.

What is pregnancy discrimination?

Pregnancy discrimination is the unfair treatment of employees or those applying for a job based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. This type of discrimination is a form of sex discrimination, as it involves treating individuals unfavorably because they are pregnant or have a medical condition related to pregnancy. Pregnancy discrimination is prohibited by various laws in many countries, including the United States.

The critical aspects of pregnancy discrimination include:

  • Hiring and employment: Discrimination during the hiring process based on pregnancy or the potential for future pregnancy, including unfair treatment of pregnant employees in terms of job assignments, promotions, or other employment opportunities.
  • Termination and retaliation: Wrongful termination of an employee due to pregnancy or related medical conditions, and retaliation against an employee for asserting their rights or making a complaint related to pregnancy discrimination.
  • Accommodations and leave: Failure to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees, such as modified work duties, flexible schedules, or temporary transfers, to allow them to continue working or the denial of legally mandated pregnancy-related leave, e.g., maternity leave.
  • Harassment: Harassment based on pregnancy, including offensive comments, jokes, or other unwanted behaviors related to an employee’s pregnancy.
  • Health and insurance benefits: Denial of health or disability insurance benefits to pregnant employees.

Is pregnancy discrimination illegal?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) in 1978 to forbid discrimination due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Additionally, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives eligible employees job-protected leave for certain family or medical reasons, including the birth or adoption of a child.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978

The PDA prohibits discrimination in all facets of employment—hiring, firing, promotion, pay, and employee benefits. It prohibits policies that limit or prevent women from doing jobs simply because they are pregnant or of childbearing age.

Here are some key provisions of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act:

  • Employment discrimination: The PDA forbids discrimination against employees or job applicants on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or similar medical conditions. This includes hiring, promotions, job assignments, and termination decisions.
  • Leave and benefits: The PDA requires employers to treat pregnant employees like other employees with similar abilities or limitations, meaning employers must provide the same benefits, including leave, health insurance, and disability benefits, to pregnant employees and employees with other medical conditions.
  • Reasonable accommodations: Employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees to enable them to perform their job duties, similar to accommodations provided for employees with other medical conditions.
  • Harassment: The PDA prohibits harassment based on pregnancy, such as offensive comments, jokes, or other unwelcome behavior related to an employee’s pregnancy.

Another federal law, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), was enacted in June 2023 to close a gap in coverage for pregnant and postpartum employees and job applicants. This new law certifies the right to obtain reasonable accommodations for identified limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions unless doing so causes an “undue hardship” on the employer. According to the PWFA, pregnant or postpartum workers are no longer required to have a pregnancy-related disability or identify other similarly situated employees who received accommodations, as was the requirement under other existing federal laws related to pregnancy-related discrimination.

Who enforces laws prohibiting pregnancy discrimination?

In the U.S., the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency responsible for enforcing laws against workplace discrimination, including pregnancy discrimination. Other countries may have their own laws addressing pregnancy discrimination, and these laws may vary. Employers and employees should be familiar with the applicable laws in their jurisdiction to ensure compliance.

What should I do if I’m the victim of pregnancy discrimination?

If you believe you are being discriminated against because of your pregnancy, it’s important to take certain steps to address the situation. Here are some recommendations:

  • Document the discrimination: Keep detailed records of incidents related to the discrimination, carefully noting the dates, times, locations, individuals involved, and a description of what happened.
  • Talk to Human Resources: Familiarize yourself with your employer’s procedures for reporting incidents of discrimination. If you feel comfortable doing so, report the discrimination to your Human Resources (HR) department and provide them with the documented information and any supporting evidence, including the discrimination’s impact on your work.
  • Request accommodations: If you need reasonable accommodations to your work duties, adjustments to your schedule, or other accommodations that would allow you to perform your job effectively, discuss this with your employer. This could include modifications.
  • Know your legal rights: Familiarize yourself with the relevant laws that protect against pregnancy discrimination in Georgia, where such discrimination is prohibited under the federal PDA.
  • File a complaint: If you are unable to resolve the issue internally, you may choose to file a complaint with the EEOC.
  • Consult legal counsel: If the discrimination persists or if your rights are not adequately addressed, consider consulting with an employment lawyer. The legal professionals at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew can provide guidance on your specific situation and help you understand your legal options.

Every situation of discrimination is unique, and the appropriate course of action may vary. At Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP, our Atlanta-based pregnancy discrimination attorneys represent victims of discrimination in the workplace, including pregnancy discrimination.

We also advocate for employees who are being harassed due to their pregnancy and will assert your rights during your pregnancy and after your child is born. Call us or fill out our contact form to speak with one of our experienced pregnancy discrimination attorneys today. Proudly serving all of Georgia.