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Pregnancy Discrimination

According to the current statistics of Women in the Labor Force provided by United States Department of Labor, women make up approximately 57% of the workforce in the United States. An estimated 70% of women with children participate in the workforce by the age of 18. Across all industries, women are protected of their right to have children and to be provided with significant accommodations at the workplace ensured by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978. Employers and companies in the United States are obligated to adhere to the regulations established by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) which amended the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to ban discrimination based on pregnancy. Pregnancy discrimination is treating a person differently because of a pregnancy or because of a medical condition that could have resulted from childbirth.

Today’s woman participates in the workforce as registered nurses, administrators, teachers, managers, accountants, housekeepers, waitresses, police, patrol officers, and government officials. Women occupy a much larger representation of the workforce which is why there have been extensive revisions to the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include discrimination policies regarding pregnancy and women in the labor force. Under California law,  pregnancy is treated as a temporary disability and falls under the jurisdiction of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which provides regulations and guidance on the employer and disabled employee relations. Pregnant women should be treated with fairness in the workplace and should be provided with reasonable accommodations to ease the maternal pains and complications.

Since the application of the Pregnancy Act of 1978, there have been a number of pregnancy discrimination cases across the United States. If you are fired, demoted, or your salary is reduced and you believe these changes occurred after a manager was informed about your pregnancy, you may be facing pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. For example, if you are fired after you told your employer about your pregnancy, you could file a lawsuit against the employer based on this form of discrimination. If you are facing pregnancy discrimination at the workplace including a failure by your employer to provide reasonable accommodations during your pregnancy, you may be entitled to file for compensations under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). To learn more about the laws and rights governed by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, contact the  California Sexual Harassment Attorney at 800-905-1856.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act

Under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, employers cannot base their hiring, promotion, discipline, wage, benefits, job transfers, dismissals or terminations on a person's pregnancy. Since 1978, the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, has been amended to include that all women who are pregnant, are protected from discrimination based on sex or on the basis of pregnancy. The law was changed as a direct response to the General Electric Company v. Gilbert in which the court ruled that pregnancy discrimination was not a form of sex discrimination. Since then laws have included policies that attempt to influence employer and pregnant employee relations.

If your employer fails to provide reasonable accommodations at the workplace or fails to treat you with the benefits that are promised to non-pregnant employees, you may file a strong lawsuit for infringement upon your rights under the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The law under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), has included that pregnancy is a temporary disability that enables employees to seek reasonable accommodations in the workplace. Like disabled employees, pregnant employees are capable of requesting accommodations. For example, if you are a pregnant woman within the postal service, you may request a lighter amount of mail so that you are capable of performing the duties while pregnant. Your employer would be required to provide “light duty” workload. If your employer provides benefits to certain disabled people, a pregnant woman cannot be discriminated against for claiming the same rights.

If you feel your employer is discriminating against you, you must establish that you are being treated with fewer benefits than someone in the same or similar situation. A prima facie case of discrimination is when the plaintiff proves that other disabled employees have been treated more favorably in a same or similar scenario. For example, if you request “light-duty” work on the basis of your pregnancy and your employer denies your request while providing a disabled employee with “light-duty” work, you can claim that you are being discriminated against on the basis of your pregnancy. If you fail to state a prima facie case of discrimination you may not receive the benefits you are requesting.

Rights under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act

Under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, employers must follow a certain set of regulations when handling a work-related pregnancy case.

  • In the state of California, employers are obligated to treat every individual fairly when they are being hired, promoted, or fired from a position. Under the California law, your employer cannot discriminate against an employee or applicant who is pregnant or who will be expecting a child.
  • Your employer is required to treat a pregnancy as a temporary disability. Your employer cannot request additional documents for pregnant employees than they do for employees who are facing other disabilities.
  • Pregnancy-related benefits can be claimed by people in a marriage or for people outside of a marriage. Your employer cannot discriminate against pregnant people who are single and pregnant.
  • Employers are required to provide the same benefits to employees on pregnancy leave as those who are on leave for different reasons. Your seniority, vacation, pay increase benefits cannot be affected due to your pregnancy leave.
  • Pregnant employees or applicants cannot be treated differently during the hiring process. For example, interview questions cannot be different from those used to hire non-pregnant people.
  • Employers cannot discriminate against people who are considering an abortion or who have undergone an abortion.
  • Employees cannot discriminate against women who may be expecting a child or who are susceptible to a pregnancy.
  • Employers with a certain amount of employees (usually over 15 depending on state law) are required to provide health insurance to their employers. Any pregnancy-related illness or condition cannot be denied medical coverage. In other words, pregnancy-related illness should be treated as other illnesses which can affect non-pregnant people.

There is an extensive law about women in the workforce with regards to being pregnant. Each state has different jurisdiction over what is considered discrimination and what is considered a burden to a company. The Americans with Disabilities Act, (ADA) states that employers are required to supply their employees with reasonable accommodations, unless, the reasonable accommodation would cause the company great instability or hardships. For example, employers can deny the right to reasonable accommodations to people who cannot lift a certain weight if the weight lifting requirement is essential for the job duties. In Arizanovska v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc (2012), the pregnant woman (who later miscarried) was told by her doctor that while pregnant she could not lift more than 20 pounds. When Wal-Mart could no longer provide “light-duty” work, she was put on unpaid leave and later fired from her position. The plaintiff filed a suit, claiming a violation of her rights protected under the PDA. The court found that the plaintiff was unable to provide a prima facie case of discrimination. In other words, the plaintiff was unable to provide that the employer was treating her unfairly. Other employers were subject to the same laws of the company and were not treated better than Arizanovska in the same case.

Under the Pregnancy and Discrimination Act (PDA), pregnant people are protected from discrimination in the workplace. To learn more about the laws regarding pregnant women, please visit the EEOC website at https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/pregnancy.cfm

Discrimination and the EEOC

Discrimination in the workplace is a very serious offense in any court of law within the United States of America. If you feel you have been discriminated against at the workplace and if you have attempted to resolve the issue with your employer and he or she fails to accommodate your request, you are entitled to file a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC is a federal agency in charge of enforcing the regulations and policies established under the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Aside from enforcing the anti-discrimination policies of the government, the EEOC provides a method in which employees can file a formal complaint against their employer if they feel they are being discriminated against in the workplace.

The EEOC prohibits discrimination based on race, national origin, sex, age, pregnancy, genetic disorders, religion, gender, and other discriminatory practices aimed at certain individuals. If you are facing discrimination based on the factors mentioned above, you must follow certain steps in order to file a complaint with the EEOC. First, If you decide to file a complaint to the EEOC you will need to contact the EEO counselor who will listen to your case and provide you with options on how to deal with your workplace discrimination case. Your employer should provide you with the contact information of your local EEO counselor and EEOC office, he or she cannot under the law deny an employee this information. You should contact the EEO counselor with your complaint within 45 days of the discrimination incident.

After you contacted your EEO counselor and after the initial conversation, your EEO counselor will provide two options to proceed with your case. You may follow the EEO counseling or you may be capable of an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). In many cases, your employer will attempt to make things right during the counseling or ADR. During counseling or through an alternative dispute resolution, you and your employer will meet in informal settings usually with a representative for each party.

If the employer and the employee fail to come to an agreement or a resolution during the counseling or during the ADR (usually within 30 days), the employee is entitled to file a Formal Complaint to the EEOC. If an agreement or resolution cannot be reached during the 30 days after the claim has been filed, your counselor is obligated to provide a “Final Interview” where you may request an extension to an ADR program or EEOC counseling. In the final interview, you may also request to proceed with a complaint to the EEOC. The complaint should include the following information:

  • The employee's full legal name along with his or her address and phone number
  • Provide a clear depiction of the account, let the EEOC understand the issue to the fullest extent by explaining the act of discrimination you faced at the workplace.
  • In this description, you should include what you believe to be the reasons for your discrimination. For example, you may claim you have been discriminated against because of your pregnancy, because of your national origin, or because of any other reason stated under the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • Include any physical or mental injuries that might have been a result of the harassment at the workplace. There have been cases where women lose their child as a result of labor induced stress.
  • Finish the complaint with your signature or the signature of your representative.

Your claim will be accepted or denied by the EEOC, it is usually denied if the claim was processed more than 45 days after the incident or if the complaint was not filled out within the time provided by the EEO counselor. If your case is denied you may appeal the decision and have your claim re-evaluated. If your claim is accepted, your claim will be investigated and you will be able to proceed with a lawsuit or formal hearing.

The  California Sexual Harassment Attorneys are ready to provide any individual facing discrimination at the workplace with legal guidance on their specific case. If your case is brought into a hearing, it is important to have a representative by your side who is capable of presenting your case to ensure you are met with compensations from your employer or past employer. To reach the California Sexual Harassment Attorneys, please contact our office at 800-905-1856. We are ready to handle your case with a high level of attention and professionalism.

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