Pregnancy Discrimination

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 companies with 15 or more employees to discriminate on the basis of pregnancy. In New York, companies with 4 or more employees cannot discriminate on the basis of pregnancy.

An employer is not allowed to consider your pregnancy when deciding to hire, fire, pay, give job assignments, promote, layoff, train, change benefits, or affect any other condition of employment. Also, under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), certain larger employers may be required to 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. Medical complications due to pregnancy (including issues that may affect how you feel after childbirth) may also be considered a temporary disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

If you are not able to perform certain duties of your job during or after your 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, 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 (updated March 2016)

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.

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