Pregnancy discrimination happens when an employer makes decisions based on your pregnancy instead of your skills, qualifications or how well you do your job. Federal law does not allow an employer to refuse to hire a pregnant woman because she is pregnant or because of a medical condition caused by her pregnancy.
An employer is not allowed to use your pregnancy as the reason to fire, transfer, lay off, alter your job assignment or make promotion and training decisions. Also, under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, certain employers must give you up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during the year after childbirth. Your job must be held open while you are on leave, and you must be given your job back or a similar job with the same benefits when you return.
If you are able to do your job while pregnant, you must be allowed to keep working. A difficult pregnancy (including issues that may affect how you feel after childbirth) can also count as a temporary disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
If you are not able to do your job during or after a difficult pregnancy, your employer must make the same reasonable accommodation for you as it would for any other disabled employee. Your employer may alter your work tasks, assign alternate tasks, or offer you a leave of absence.
In New York City, pregnancy itself is considered a disability under the Human Rights Law, and businesses with 4 or more employees must make reasonable accommodations for their pregnant employees.
Here are some examples of possible pregnancy discrimination:
- Before a scheduled promotion, you tell your employer that you are pregnant, and your boss assumes that your pregnancy will become a problem and gives the promotion to someone else;
- You apply for a job that you are qualified for and the interviewer tells you that when women get pregnant, it is “a scheduling nightmare” for the company and its clients. The interviewer knows you are pregnant and you don’t get the job;
- Your employer starts training all employees, except for you and two other pregnant co-workers, on new equipment or software that is very important for the future plans of the company;
- You work in New York City and you lose your job because your pregnancy required you to take more bathroom breaks than everyone else.
Legal Editor: Davin P. Cellura, January 2015
Changes may occur in this area of law. The information provided is brought to you as a public service with the help and assistance of volunteer legal editors, and is intended to help you better understand the law in general. It is not intended to be legal advice regarding your particular problem or to substitute for the advice of a lawyer.