What is Considered Workplace Pregnancy Discrimination?

Pregnant employees may face various forms of discrimination. Here are some examples of pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.

Pregnancy discrimination in the workplace involves an adverse job action taken against an employee based on their pregnancy. Some examples of pregnancy discrimination include termination, demotion, denial of employment, denial of accommodations, restriction of pregnancy leave, and retaliation.

1. Demotion or Termination

The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) prohibits an employer from demoting or firing an employee based on pregnancy or pregnancy-related conditions. While an employer may be concerned for the pregnant employee’s wellbeing, it is illegal to fire a pregnant employee based on pregnancy concerns. Additionally, an employer cannot reduce an employee’s pay or benefits based on pregnancy.

Related: 3 Cases of Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace

2. Denial of Employment

Under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), an employer cannot refuse to hire a pregnant woman based on pregnancy or pregnancy-related conditions. An employer cannot act on assumptions of a potential employee’s work capacity during pregnancy or following childbirth. Additionally, an employer cannot make hiring decisions based on a potential employee’s plans to become pregnant in the future.

3. Denial of Reasonable Accommodations

Pregnancy accommodations rights in the workplace are protected by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Therefore, if a pregnant employee suffers from pregnancy-related conditions, the employer must provide appropriate accommodations. Some common pregnancy-related conditions include gestational diabetes, morning sickness, anemia, and preeclampsia. Accommodations may include but are not limited to modifying work schedules, providing a stool or chair, and allowing more breaks.

Related: Pregnant Employee Rights in California

4. Restriction of Pregnancy-Related Medical Leave

Under the PDA, an employer must allow a pregnant employee to take leave under the same conditions as other employees who face limitations not caused by pregnancy. Under the ADA, a pregnant employee suffering from a pregnancy-related condition has the right to a work-leave. An employer cannot fire a pregnant employee for taking a leave. Additionally, an employer cannot force a pregnant employee to shorten the length of their eligible leave.

It is also illegal for an employer to force a pregnant employee to go on maternity or disability leave while the employee is still able to work. An employer cannot refuse to reinstate a pregnant employee after a pregnancy-related leave. Under the FMLA, an employer must allow the employee to return to the same position or a position that is similar in pay and benefits.

5. Workplace Retaliation

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), retaliation is the most common form of pregnancy discrimination. Employers are prohibited from punishing pregnant employees for filing a pregnancy discrimination claim. Examples of workplace retaliation against a pregnant employee include job termination, demotion, poor performance reviews, and physical or verbal harassment.

Related: How to File a Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit in California

FAQs About Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace

Are employees required to disclose pregnancy to potential or current employers?

No, an employee is not legally required to disclose their pregnancy to either a potential or current employer. However, a pregnant employee should consider notifying their current employer as soon as possible for the necessary accommodations and benefits.

Can an employer ask an employee if they are pregnant?

While employers are not prohibited from asking an employee if they are pregnant, the employee is not legally required to answer. Generally, it is discouraged for employers to ask whether an employee is pregnant as it can be considered in the investigation of a pregnancy discrimination charge.

Can an employer require a doctor’s note prior to authorizing a maternity leave?

An employer is prohibited from singling out pregnancy-related conditions in determining an employee’s ability to work. However, if employees with limitations unrelated to pregnancy are required to submit a doctor’s note when requesting leave, pregnant employees may be required to submit similar documentation.

Contact Us

If you or a loved one has faced one or more of these examples of workplace pregnancy discrimination, contact us. We’ll get you in touch with the most qualified attorney to help protect your rights. Get connected to an attorney with one of our California Pregnancy Discrimination Attorneys today!