Pregnancy Discrimination – Know Your Rights!
As a starting point one thing should be made very clear: You cannot be discriminated against for being pregnant! You cannot be fired. You cannot be refused employment. You cannot be demoted. You cannot be docked pay.
Unfortunately, it seems to be a fairly common occurrence that once a woman becomes pregnant her formerly nice and reasonable employer treats her differently. Treating a woman differently – unless it’s to say how awesome it is that she’s pregnant – is likely to be illegal. In 1978, Congress enacted the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) as an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In doing so Congress made clear that women were not to be punished for becoming mothers.
The PDA prohibits discrimination in areas and ways, including*:
- Hiring/Firing: An employer cannot refuse to hire a woman because of her pregnancy or a related condition and cannot fire a woman for those things either.
- Pregnancy & Maternity Leave: An employer: cannot single out pregnant women for special procedures to determine her ability to work; must hold open the job while she is on pregnancy leave; must treat her the same as any temporarily disabled worker if she is unable to perform her duties for a short time; must allow her to work if she is able.
- Health Insurance: Employer provided health insurance must cover pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions on the same basis as other medical issues.
- Fringe Benefits: Benefits cannot be given only to married couples. Benefits cannot be provided differently to pregnant and non-pregnant employees. Seniority, vacation, pay, temporary disability benefits, must all be the same as all other employees.
*This list is not all inclusive. See an attorney if you feel as if you have, or are, suffering some sort of mistreatment.
Additionally, the law prevents retaliation for complaining about discrimination either to your employer or to the EEOC. States and local governments may also have laws that are similar to the PDA.
For example, in Illinois the city of Chicago, Cook County, and the state of Illinois all have laws intended to prevent or remedy pregnancy discrimination. There are also administrative forums at each of these levels devoted to hearing claims of discrimination and providing remedies, including monetary damages.
Women who suffer, or believe that they may have suffered, discrimination need to file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC within 180 days of the date of the last act of discrimination. The various local and state agencies may have different filing times but many mirror the 180 day filing requirement set by the federal government as well as the types of discrimination considered illegal. Missing the filing date may eliminate the women’s right to sue so careful attention must be paid to the date, or dates, the act of discrimination took place.
As always, it’s best to consult a local attorney about a claim of discrimination but these forums will allow a woman to file her claim without a lawyer and some will investigate the claims using trained personnel.