Federal (and some state) laws protect the rights of pregnant women and new mothers in the workplace. The primary federal laws are the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and in some cases the American's with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The PDA is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It stipulates that discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions constitutes unlawful sex discrimination. It prohibits the following types of discrimination:
* Harassment. Pregnancy harassment is defined as any unwelcome conduct related to the pregnancy, whether verbal, physical, or written. The harasser may be a supervisor, co-worker, customer, or vendor.
* Hiring. An employer cannot refuse to hire a woman because she is pregnant, because of a pregnancy-related condition, or because of the prejudices of co-workers, clients, or customers. It is illegal to ask during the hiring process whether an applicant is pregnant or intends to become pregnant. An employer can only ask whether the employee is able to perform the job requirements.
* Pregnancy and maternity leave. If an employee is temporarily unable to do her job because of pregnancy, the employer must treat her the same as any other temporarily disabled employee. Pregnant employees must be permitted to continue working as long as they are able to do their job.
* Health insurance. Any health insurance provided by an employer must cover expenses for pregnancy-related conditions on the same basis as other medical conditions.
* Benefits. If an employer provides any benefits to employees on leave, they must provide the same benefits to employees on leave for pregnancy-related conditions. Pregnancy-related benefits cannot be denied to employees because they are not married.
There is no federal law requiring employers to provide paid maternity leave. However, if an employee meets eligibility guidelines for FMLA, they must be afforded unpaid leave.
A normal pregnancy is not considered a disability under the ADA. However, if a woman has pregnancy-related complications that substantially limit a major life activity, she may be considered disabled under that act and be entitled to reasonable accommodations at work.