Author: Beth P. Zoller, XpertHR Legal Editor
As women make up over half of today's workforce, a significant number of employees and applicants are pregnant women as well as mothers returning to work after childbirth. As such, an employer faces multiple issues in managing pregnant employees. Some examples of the various challenges an employer may confront include:
- Preventing discrimination and harassment based on pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions;
- Evaluating workplace policies that have an adverse effect on pregnant workers and new mothers;
- Providing pregnant employees and lactating mothers with reasonable accommodations; and
- Coordinating leave.
An employer needs to know that pregnancy discrimination is prohibited by federal, state and often local law. Therefore, the employer needs to be proactive and take affirmative steps to eliminate pregnancy discrimination and bias in the workplace by adopting strict policies against discrimination and harassment. An employer also needs to follow up on any pregnancy discrimination complaints with a thorough investigation and disciplinary measures if needed.
Further, the employer needs to train supervisors on how to manage pregnant employees and unique issues related to pregnancy. A pregnant employee may not be singled out for special treatment and an employer should treat a pregnant employee the same as other individuals who are similar in their ability or inability to work. If a pregnancy-related condition substantially limits one or more major life activities and impacts an employee in her ability to work, the employee may be entitled to a reasonable workplace accommodation. However, an employer should know that they are required to provide the same benefits and leave to women affected by pregnancy as they provide to other individuals who are similar in their ability or inability to work. If an employer provides light duty, alternative assignments, disability leave or unpaid leave to non-pregnant workers, it is required to provide the same benefits to pregnant women. Also, an employer is prohibited from forcing a pregnant employee to take leave if she is able to perform the essential functions of her job.
An employer should continue to be aware of any developments as this is a rapidly changing area of the law.
Using XpertHR's various Tools and resources can help an employer successfully implement policies prohibiting pregnancy discrimination and manage pregnant employees and those returning to work after pregnancy and childbirth.
- How to Prevent Pregnancy Discrimination
- How to Handle a Complaint of Pregnancy Discrimination
- How to Handle Requests for Flexible Work Arrangements
- How to Establish Breastfeeding Breaks for Nursing Mothers
- How to Prevent Leave Discrimination
- How to Handle a Complaint of Pregnancy Discrimination
- How to Prevent Discrimination in the Workplace
- How to Prevent Family Responsibility Discrimination Claims
- How to Prevent Harassment
- How to Manage Employees With Caregiving Responsibilities
Employment Law Manual
- EEO - Discrimination
- EEO - Harassment
- Disabilities (ADA)
- Managing Employees in Special Situations
- Hours Worked > Breastfeeding Breaks
- Prevent Pregnancy Discrimination
- Manage Telecommuters
- Establish Breastfeeding Breaks for Nursing Mothers
Policies and Documents
- Massachusetts Fair Employment Law Poster
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Pregnancy Discrimination Poster
- California Pregnancy Disability Leave Notice Poster
- California Family Care and Medical Leave and Pregnancy Disability Leave Poster
- New York City Pregnancy and Employment Rights Poster
- Maryland Pregnant and Working Notice Poster
- EEO Policy
- Discrimination Policy
- Sexual Harassment Policy
- Harassment Policy
- Breastfeeding Policy
- EEO Is the Law Poster
- Communication of Reproductive Hazards in the Workplace Policy
- Complaint Form for Workplace Discrimination
- Harassment Complaint Form
- Family and Medical Leave Policy for Employers Not Subject to the FMLA
- Tactics to Control Intermittent Leave Abuse - Checklist
- WH-380-F Certification of Health Care Provider for Family Member's Serious Health Condition Form
- WH-380-E Certification of Health Care Provider for Employee's Serious Health Condition Form
- Steps to Prevent FMLA Fraud and Abuse - Checklist
- What laws prohibit pregnancy discrimination?
- Is pregnancy considered a disability under federal law?
- What kind of medical conditions might be related to pregnancy or childbirth?
- Is an employer required to accommodate a pregnant employee?
- Are only workers who are currently pregnant protected under federal law?
- Is a pregnant employee or applicant entitled to special treatment?
- May an employer ask an employee if she is pregnant or plans to start a family?
- May an employer refuse to hire an applicant if the employer learns that the applicant is pregnant?
- What are some reasonable accommodations that an employer may want to or be asked to provide to a pregnant employee?
- May an employer change a pregnant employee's job duties because the employer or the employer's co-workers or colleagues fear the employee will get hurt?
- How can an employer minimize the risk of a pregnancy discrimination claim?
- What steps can an employer take to prevent sex discrimination?
- What counts as a reasonable period for a breastfeeding break?
- How can an employer minimize the risk of family responsibility discrimination claims?
- Is an employer required to accommodate an employee's or applicant's family responsibilities?
- What are some examples of family responsibility discrimination or caregiver discrimination?
- Is there any law prohibiting family responsibility discrimination or caregiver discrimination?
- What is family responsibility discrimination or caregiver discrimination?
- What is the length of time that a California employee must have worked before the employee is eligible for California pregnancy disability leave?
- How many full- or part-time employees does an employer need to have in order to be covered by California's pregnancy discrimination laws?
- Bullying and Harassment - Supervisor Briefing
- Discrimination - Supervisor Briefing
- Job Sharing - Supervisor Briefing
- FMLA - Supervisor Briefing
- ADA: An Overview - Supervisor Briefing
- Intermittent and Reduced Schedule FMLA Leave - Supervisor Briefing
- Pension Partially Calculated on Former Policy that Penalized Maternity Leave Is Not Necessarily Discriminatory
- Pregnant Employees Face a Tough Hurdle in Establishing a Disability Under the ADA
- Employer's Written Communications Authorizing Extended Leave May Have Created a Contractual Promise for Reinstatement Following Year-Long Leave
- Don't Spill the Beans: Employer's Representative's Statement May Be Admissible to Prove Discriminatory Intent in Decision to Terminate