The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, which amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Pregnancy discrimination involves treating an individual—an applicant or employee—unfavorably in any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, fringe benefits (such as leave and health insurance), and any other terms or conditions of employment. These federal statutory protections from pregnancy discrimination apply to employers with 15 or more employees.
And impairments resulting from pregnancy (for example, gestational diabetes or preeclampsia, a condition characterized by pregnancy-induced hypertension and protein in the urine) may be disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). An employer may have to provide a reasonable accommodation (such as leave or modifications that enable an employee to perform her job) for a disability related to pregnancy, absent undue hardship (significant difficulty or expense). The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 makes it much easier to show that a medical condition is a covered disability. For more information about the ADA, see the BookLawyer Quick Summary on the ADA and the Americans With Disabilities Act subtopic under the Employment law topic.
To avoid a claim of pregnancy discrimination an employer:
• may not maintain a written or unwritten employment policy or practice that excludes applicants from employment, or denies employees any terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.
• must permit a pregnant employee to do her job for as long as she is capable of performing the job.
• may not make an employment decision about an employee's work performance based on a stereotype or assumption concerning the employee's pregnancy.
• may not single out pregnancy or related conditions for special procedures to determine an employee’s ability to work.
• may not exclude members of one sex from a workplace for the purpose of protecting fetuses—while an employer has a duty to protect employees' health and safety, it has no extra duty to protect pregnant or potentially pregnant employees from dangerous work conditions, and excluding members of one sex from a workplace for the purpose of protecting fetuses cannot be justified under Title VII.
• may not terminate, deny assignments to, or deny promotions to an employee because of her pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition.