Getting pregnant can change your life in many unexpected ways, both good and bad. One area of your life where it should not affect you negatively is in the workplace. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth and related conditions. Unfortunately, more than 40 years after its passage, many employers continue to violate the law, discriminating against women who are pregnant, who might get pregnant, or who need to take time off for childbirth and related issues.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed as an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion. By explicitly making pregnancy discrimination a form of illegal sexual discrimination, Congress prohibited employers from taking actions against women such as firing them, failing to give them promotions or preventing them from performing certain jobs solely on the basis that they are pregnant, or may become pregnant.
Note that pregnant women may have other protections under state and local governments, as well as the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities act and other federal laws.
After facing pregnancy discrimination at work, women can file a charge under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Women can file these charges even if they no longer work for the employer in question, but they generally must file a charge within 180 days of the discrimination action. The EEOC first tries to settle the dispute on its own, or by referring the employer and employee to a mediator. In some cases, the EEOC files suit against the employer on its own; in others, it gives the employee a “Right to Sue” letter, which helps employees start the process of seeking justice through the civil court system.
A lawyer with experience in workplace discrimination can help workers at many points in this process. If you have faced pregnancy-based discrimination at work, it’s a good idea to talk to a lawyer with experience in employment law about your rights and legal options.