Rights for Pregnant Workers Under Federal Law

Motherhood is a right of every woman, whether she is employed or not. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 delineates the right of every woman against discrimination in employment for being pregnant or just for being a woman who is likely to become pregnant. Any organization, which is employing more than 15 employees, is bound to abide by this right of women. The moot point of the policy is to discourage discrimination against women on account of pregnancy, childbirth, pregnancy related conditions, etc. It has termed pregnancy as a temporary medical condition which needs to be treated at par with any other medical condition. It is heartening to observe that not just feder5als laws; some state laws go even beyond the federal law and formulate policies for women. Yet, women find it tough to answer questions when they become pregnant, give birth to children or suffer from pregnancy-related complications. This is why women should have knowledge about the rights of pregnant women under federal law.


Discrimination is Illegal


There is a completely separate federal law for pregnant workers, and it owes its origin to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, 1978. This act, in turn, owes its origin to the Title VII of Civil Rights Act, 1964. In terms of this act, employers, employing at least 15 people, cannot discriminate against women employees for employing or for continuing employment, if she is – 

  • pregnant;
  • had been pregnant;
  • likely to become pregnant
  • intend to get pregnant;
  • suffering from a medical condition that owes its origin to pregnancy;
  • suffered an abortion, or;
  • considering an abortion.


In essence, the Act protects you against being rejected, fired, promoted, or given less significant assignments. You cannot even be forced to take leave. Moreover, the employer should not post you in a kind of job that you may face difficulty in doing or completely unable to do or which poses a significant risk to your health. Also, the employer cannot terminate your job citing that the job is risky for your health or pregnancy. 

Complaint Against Harassment


If you think you are being harassed because of pregnancy or related medical condition, you need to tell it to your employer following the laid down reporting procedure. The employer is legally bound to take action so that such harassment can be stopped.  

Difficulty in Doing Certain Jobs


If you are finding it difficult to do a certain job owing to pregnancy or certain medical condition related to pregnancy, you are entitled to accommodation in a different position which would allow you to do your job without any safety hazard. If the company has a policy of accommodating people with physical limitations, you have an automatic right to change of position under the PDA, if you are suffering from any pregnancy-related condition like anemia, cervical insufficiency, sciatica, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, depression, etc., which the ADA defines as “disability.” 

When You Are No Longer Able To Work


If you are no longer able to work even with the most adaptive accommodation, you are entitled for altered job duties. PDA can help pregnant women by making the employer reduce workload, remove a function of the assigned job, or something else if the employer has a policy of doing such things for employees with disabilities or limitations. 


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