Siegal & RichardsonLLP

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Pregnancy discrimination is forbidden by federal laws

The addition of a baby to a family is a joyful time in a woman's life but, tragically, her career can sometimes be detrimentally affected. It is difficult for an expectant mother to realize that her pregnancy is problem for her employer. Fortunately, pregnant women have specific rights that are established by federal and state laws.

It is against the law for an employer to discriminate against a woman simply because she is pregnant. In 1978, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed by Congress to address the issue of employers acting negatively toward women who are expecting a baby.

Protection extent

The ban against pregnancy discrimination starts with the hiring process and extends through the termination process. Employers can't refuse to hire a woman who is pregnant as long as she is able to perform functions that are essential for the job. She can't be bypassed for a promotion or pay raise simply because of her condition. She also can't be terminated, given a pay cut, demoted or moved to a less desirable shift or job because she is carrying a baby.

The pregnancy isn't the only condition that qualifies for the protections the PDA added to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Any condition related to the pregnancy is also included. The woman must be treated in the same manner as any other worker. Many of the conditions that might occur in conjunction with pregnancy would qualify for protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act, too.

Another protection these women have is that they can't be forced to take time off work. Employers sometimes try to force a woman to remain off work until the baby is born if she has any pregnancy complications. When she is able to do her job duties again, she must be allowed to work.

If she is temporarily disabled due to the pregnancy or a related condition, her job must be kept open for the same amount of time as anyone else who has to take a temporary disability leave for illness.

Family and Medical Leave Act

Women who have to take time off work due to the birth of the baby or complications during the pregnancy might qualify for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Certain conditions must be met in order to receive this coverage. If she does qualify, she can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave.

When employers don't comply with these laws, the employee might take legal action. Exploring this option can provide her with ways to correct the situation and get compensated for the unfair treatment.

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