Overview: The Pregnancy Discrimination Act is an amendment to Title VII which protects pregnant individuals from applicant and employee discrimination. Further, some state and local laws similarly prohibit discrimination against employees and applicants who are pregnant. Pregnant individuals also may be protected under federal and state family and medical leave acts. In order to be protected based on pregnancy, the employer must know that the individual is pregnant. To avoid pregnancy discrimination, employers should develop a policy against discrimination and provide employees and supervisors with training so that pregnant employees receive fair and equal treatment. Further, an employer needs to understand that it is required to treat pregnant employees the same as other similarly situated non-pregnant employees.
Trends: Employers should be aware that legislation has been introduced in both the House and the Senate that would require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees unless it would cause undue hardship for the employer. A number of states such as California, Maryland and New Jersey as well as cities like New York City and Philadelphia have already made this a requirement. Further, the EEOC has recently filed a number of pregnancy discrimination lawsuits and is aggressively pursuing pregnancy discrimination in the workplace through its Strategic Enforcement Plan. It has labeled pregnancy discrimination as an emerging issue and it is working to combat pregnancy discrimination and ensure pregnancy accommodation. Employers should be alert and keep up with the rapid changes in this area of the law as it has become a hot topic in employment.
Author: Beth Zoller, JD, Legal Editor
Virginia employers with five or more employees should include this statement in their handbook to educate employees about the availability of reasonable accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions and to comply with a handbook policy requirement.
Updated to reflect Virginia law regarding pregnancy accommodations, effective July 1, 2020; and forthcoming law in Tennessee regarding pregnancy accommodations.
Updated to reflect the removal of the earned paid time off law in Bernalillo County, New Mexico, due to the change in its implementation date from July 1, 2020, to October 1, 2020.
Updated to reflect an increase in the duration of paid family leave benefits, effective July 1, 2020.
Updated to reflect amendments to the Virginia Human Rights Act regarding pregnancy accommodations, effective July 1, 2020.
Updated to reflect the change of the term marijuana with cannabis under state law, effective July 1, 2020.
Updated to reflect additional EEOC guidance regarding discrimination based on national origin, age and pregnancy.
Updated to reflect legal developments regarding the Austin paid sick leave law.
HR guidance on how to confront the legal challenges in managing an employee who is pregnant and preventing discrimination based on pregnancy.