Women constitute a vast portion of the American workforce, and have excelled in every field they’ve entered. But with female employees, the question of pregnancy rights inevitably arises. As an HR executive, it is up to you to make sure you respect your pregnant employee’s rights and uphold their benefits. Not only is it a moral imperative, but when pregnant women do not receive their due benefits, they can lawfully sue the company.
What are the rights of pregnant employees?
According to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), employers are prohibited from discriminating against women based on pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions in workplaces with 15+ employees.
Pregnant women are also protected under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, which includes pregnant women or women with pregnancy-related issues.
Updates to the Law
In July 2015, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued an updated Enforcement Guidance on pregnancy discrimination and related issues. The updated guidance states that if an employer accommodates some workers but not a pregnant worker, she has grounds to prove unlawful pregnancy discrimination.
Discriminatory practices include if an employer:
- Fires a pregnant employee for being absent when her absence is covered by the employer’s sick leave policy,
- Requires pregnant employees or those with pregnancy-related medical issues to exhaust their sick leave before using other types of accrued leave while for non-pregnant employees, there are no such requirements,
- Imposes a shorter maximum period for pregnancy-related leave than for other types of short medical disability leave,
- Does not allow an employee who is temporarily disabled due to pregnancy to take leave without paythe same way that other employees with medical issues can take leave,
- Does not hold a job open for a pregnant woman for the same amount of time the company would hold a job open for other sick employees.
In certain cases, an employer will have to provide leave in addition to what is provided under its normal leave policy, but in most situations, the law does not require employers to bend over backwards for pregnant employees, but rather, to treat them the same way that other employees are treated.
It’s Not Worth It
Pregnant workers who feel that they have been discriminated against in the workplace can easily file a lawsuit against their employers. If the woman continues on to sue her employer, the company can end up having to pay compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorney’s fees (for the employee), court costs and more. In short, not only is pregnancy discrimination an immoral act, but it is one that can end up costing the company a lot.