Although it is against the law to discriminate against pregnant employees and applicants, employers continue to violate federal and state labor and employment laws more than you might think. While cases of blatant discrimination do exist, many employers that get slapped with a workplace discrimination lawsuit are surprised to learn they did anything wrong. Find out what you can do to comply with labor laws and avoid costly litigation.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Under this law, a woman cannot be denied a job due to her pregnancy, as long as she is able to do the job. Employers also cannot treat her adversely because of her condition, such as withholding pay, benefits, or promotions. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act covers every aspect of employment, from hiring decisions to termination and everything in between. To protect your company from a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit, employers are encouraged to use discretion in the following situations.
You should never ask an employee or applicant if she is pregnant. Even if you do not make a hiring or promotion decision based on this information, just asking the question is a violation of federal labor laws. Employers should also avoid asking questions about a female applicant’s family and marital status, childcare arrangements, or plans to have children.
When an employee is unable to perform her normal job duties due to her pregnancy, she must be treated as any other employee with a temporary disability. She should be offered reasonable accommodations, light duty, disability leave, or any other options provided to other temporarily disabled employees, as needed based on her medical condition.
Any disability leave offered to temporarily disabled employees must be extended to female employees that are unable to continue working for medical reasons during pregnancy. If your workplace is covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), an eligible employee is entitled to up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave for temporary disability resulting from pregnancy, recovery from childbirth, and/or caring for a new child. Employees (pregnant or not) that take leave through FMLA are protected from adverse treatment, such as reduced hours, reduced pay, harassment, demotion, or termination due to their absence.
For more information about protecting your company from workplace discrimination lawsuits, contact the employment law attorneys at Goldman & Ehrlich.