What is Pregnancy Discrimination – Part I

Pregnancy discrimination is defined as discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions. Pregnancy discrimination can include all of the following actions by an employer:

  • refusing to hire a pregnant applicant;
  • firing or demoting a pregnant employee;
  • denying the same or a similar job to a pregnant employee when she returns from a pregnancy-related leave;
  • treating a pregnant employee differently than other temporarily disabled employees; and
  • failing to grant a male employee health insurance coverage for his wife’s pregnancy related conditions if a female employee’s husband has comprehensive health insurance coverage through the same company plan.

Under the law, pregnancy is considered a temporary disability, as are related medical conditions such as severe morning sickness, doctor-ordered bed rest, childbirth, recovery from childbirth, and any other related medical condition. Your employer must therefore give pregnant employees the same treatment and benefits that it gives to employees with other temporary disabilities.

Here are some examples of potentially illegal pregnancy discrimination:

  • During an interview, a job placement agency asks an applicant how many children she has and if she is planning to get pregnant again. The applicant says she is four months pregnant. The agency tells her to come back after she has her child and is ready to work.
  • A female employee tells her boss at work that she is pregnant. Her boss fires her after learning the news, even though she is still able to work for several more months.
  • A pregnant worker at a fast food restaurant asks her boss if she can stop lifting heavy boxes during her pregnancy. The boss says no, even though another employee did not have to lift boxes at work while recovering from surgery. The pregnant worker is forced to quit her job.
  • A pregnant worker needs to take time off to visit her doctor for prenatal care. She is docked and eventually disciplined for missing time from work, even though other workers who need ongoing medical treatment are not docked nor disciplined.

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