Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA)
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a federal discrimination law. Discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions is unlawful sex discrimination under Title VII, which covers employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments.
Women who are pregnant or affected by related conditions must be treated in the same manner as other applicants or employees with similar abilities or limitations. Many states also have laws regarding pregnancy discrimination and breastfeeding.
State-by-state comparison of 50 employment laws in all 50 states, including discrimination, pregnancy leave, and breastfeeding
Hiring pregnant workers
Employers may not refuse to hire a woman because of her pregnancy, a pregnancy-related condition, or the prejudices of coworkers, clients, or customers. So long as she can perform the job, her pregnancy or related conditions can’t be a reason for failing to hire her.
Pregnancy and maternity leave
Employers can’t force employees to take leave while they’re pregnant — so long as they can perform their jobs. If an employee is temporarily unable to perform her job because of her pregnancy, the employer must treat her the same as other temporarily disabled employees by, for example, providing modified tasks, alternating assignments, or offering disability leave or leave without pay.
If an employee is absent for a pregnancy-related condition and recovers, an employer can’t force her to remain on leave until the baby’s birth. Also, the employer may not have a rule prohibiting an employee from returning to work for a predetermined length of time after childbirth. Pregnant employees must be permitted to work so long as they can perform their jobs. The employer must hold jobs open for pregnant employees for the same length of time that it holds them open for employees on sick or disability leave.
HR Guide to Employment Law: A practical compliance reference manual covering 14 topics, including discrimination
Health insurance for employees who are pregnant or have a pregnant spouse
Any health insurance that employers provide to their employees must cover expenses for pregnancy-related conditions on the same basis as they cover costs for other medical conditions. Health insurance for expenses arising from an abortion isn’t required except when the mother’s life is in danger. Pregnancy-related expenses must be reimbursed in the same manner as those incurred for other medical conditions, whether the payment is on a fixed basis or a percentage of the reasonable and customary charges. Employers must provide the same level of health benefits for male employees’ spouses as they do for female employees’ spouses.
Fringe benefits for pregnant employees
If an employer provides any benefits to workers on leave, it must provide the same benefits to those on leave for pregnancy-related conditions. Employees with pregnancy-related disabilities must be treated the same as other temporarily disabled employees for the accrual and crediting of seniority, vacation calculations, pay increases, and temporary disability benefits.
Pregnant employees and the Family and Medical Leave Act – FMLA
Remember that pregnant employees may have additional rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Keep in mind that under Title VII, employees are protected by the discrimination laws regardless of how long they’ve been on the job. Under federal and some state family and medical leave laws, however, employees who have worked less than a year may not be eligible for leave.
A policy that denies pregnancy leave during the first year of employment but provides leave for other medical conditions would discriminate against pregnant women in violation of Title VII. Also, a neutral policy that prohibits an employee from taking sick leave or short-term disability leave during the first year of employment could have a disparate impact on women and thus violate Title VII.