Pregnancy Discrimination

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act requires companies employing 15 or more people to treat pregnant workers the same way they treat other workers who have medical disabilities and cannot work. The law prohibits job discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or related disability. Discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions constitutes unlawful sex discrimination. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act guarantees equal treatment of disabilities, including pregnancy, birth or related medical conditions. Your employer cannot fire you because you are pregnant or force you to take mandatory maternity leave.

You are protected in other ways too. You must be granted the same health, disability and sick-leave benefits as any other employee who have a medical condition. Any health insurance provided by an employer must cover expenses for pregnancy related conditions on the same basis as costs for other medical conditions.

Health insurance for expenses arising from abortion is not required, except where the life of the mother is endangered. You must be given modified tasks, alternate assignments, disability leave or leave without pay (depending on your company's policy). You are allowed to work as long as you can perform your job. You are guaranteed job security on leave. You continue to accrue seniority and vacation and you remain eligible for pay increases and benefits.

If your company does not provide job security or benefits to other employees, it does not have to provide them to a pregnant woman. Pregnancy related benefits cannot be limited to married employees. In an all-female workforce or job classification, benefits must be provided for pregnancy-related conditions if benefits are provided for other medical conditions. If an employer provides any benefits to workers on leave, the employer must provide the same benefits for those on leave for pregnancy-related conditions. Employees with pregnancy- related disabilities must be treated the same as other temporarily disabled employees for accrual and crediting of seniority, vacation calculation, pay increases and temporary disability benefits.

Furthermore, an employer cannot refuse to hire a woman because of her pregnancy-related condition as long as she is able to perform the major functions of her job. An employer cannot refuse to hire her because of its prejudices against pregnant workers or the prejudices of co-workers, clients or customers.

Maternity Leave
An employer may not single out pregnancy-related conditions for special procedures to determine an employee's ability to work. However, an employer may use any procedure used to screen other employees' ability to work. For example, if an employer requires its employees to submit a doctor's statement concerning their inability to work before granting leave or paying sick benefits, the employer may require employees affected by pregnancy related conditions to submit such statements.

If an employee is temporarily unable to perform her job due to pregnancy, the employer must treat her the same as any other temporarily disabled employee; for example, by providing modified tasks, alternative assignments, disability leave or leave without pay.

Pregnant employees must be permitted to work as long as they are able to perform their jobs. If an employee has been absent from work as a result of a pregnancy related condition and recovers, her employer may not require her to remain on leave until the baby's birth. An employer may not have a rule which prohibits an employee from returning to work for a predetermined length of time after childbirth.

Employers must hold open a job for a pregnancy-related absence for the same length of time jobs are held open for employees on sick or disability leave.

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