Federal law prohibits an employer from refusing to hire a pregnant woman because she is pregnant or because of a condition related to her pregnancy. An employer may also not use pregnancy as the basis for a decision to fire, transfer, layoff, alter the job assignment of, or make promotion and training decisions with regard to a an employee. In addition, under the Family and Medical Leave Act, certain employers must grant 12 weeks of unpaid leave in the year after childbirth and must hold the employee’s job open while she is on leave. The employer must allow her to return to the same or similar position with the same benefits she enjoyed before leave.
If a pregnant employee is able to perform her job, she must be permitted to do so. A problem pregnancy (and even the employee’s condition after childbirth) can qualify as a temporary disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. If, as a result of a problem pregnancy, an employee is unable to perform her job during or after her pregnancy, the employer must make the same reasonable accommodation for the disability as would be the case with any other disabled employee. An employer may modify tasks, assign alternate tasks, or permit disability leave or leave without pay.
In New York City, pregnancy itself is considered a disability under the Human Rights Law, and businesses with more than four employees must make reasonable accommodations for their pregnant employees.
How do I know if I’m a victim of pregnancy discrimination?
Pregnancy discrimination can be very subtle and each case is dependent on its particular facts. But pregnancy discrimination might be occurring in the following situations:
- Before a scheduled promotion, you disclose that you are pregnant. Shortly thereafter, the promotion is given to someone else.
- You apply for a job for which you are well qualified, and the interviewer tells you that when women get pregnant, it creates “a logistical nightmare” for the company and its clients. You don’t get the job.
- Your employer starts training all employees, except for you and two other pregnant employees, on new equipment and platforms critical to the future plans of the company.
- You work in New York City, and you lost your job because since you got pregnant, you need more bathroom breaks than every other employee.
I think I’m a victim of pregnancy discrimination:
- Act quickly—there is a limited amount of time for you to take legal action.
- If you were fired and received severance, check the severance agreement to make sure you didn’t waive your rights to claim discrimination. (Even if you did, the waiver may not be valid).
- Gather written reviews and other documents proving your performance quality, as well as your employee manual, if published.
- Get in touch with an experienced employment lawyer.
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.