No woman should ever have to choose between having children and staying gainfully employed. Fortunately, federal law as well as California employment laws protect the rights of women against pregnancy discrimination. In other words, no woman ever needs to worry about being treated differently from non-pregnant employees for maintaining a successful career while also family planning.
What Is Considered Pregnancy Discrimination?
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines pregnancy discrimination as any unfavorable treatment of an employee or applicant due to pregnancy, childbirth, and/or any related medical conditions. That includes doing any of the following based on an employee’s pregnancy or ability to get pregnant:
- Refusing to hire or promote
- Refusing to train
- Firing and laying off
- Withholding compensation
- Withholding fringe benefits such as leave and health insurance
- Limiting pregnancy-related disability benefits to only pregnant employees who are married
- Limiting or withdrawing job assignments
- Using or referencing pregnancy-related slurs or stereotypes
- Forcing a pregnant employee to take a leave of absence
- Requiring sterilization
And employers should never inquire about:
- An applicant’s or employee’s current pregnancy status
- Ability to get pregnant
- Plans to become pregnant
- Any other personal details related to pregnancy or having a child.
What Does the Pregnancy Discrimination Act Cover?
Since the passing of The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978, U.S. federal law considers pregnancy harassment a form of sexual harassment. The PDA prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from committing acts of pregnancy discrimination and requires them to provide women who are recovering from health conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth the same benefits as they would provide to temporarily disabled employees.
The PDA is also reinforced by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which entitles employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave with continuation of insurance benefits. Some pregnancy-related impairments such as gestational diabetes or preeclampsia may be considered disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which would require employers to provide reasonable accommodations similar to what is provided for disabled employees.
In California, you receive extra protections under California’s Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (PDLL), California Family Rights Act (CFRA), and the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). In fact, Californian law prohibits all employers with at least five employees from committing pregnancy discrimination. The PDLL also allows up to 26 weeks of pregnancy disability leave if necessary, because of the pregnancy or a pregnancy-related issue.
All women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions must be treated the same as all non-pregnant employees when it comes to any employment-related issues.
How Much Is a Pregnancy Discrimination Case Worth?
Settlements and monetary rewards you can receive from pregnancy discrimination claims vary depending on the circumstances of each case. One thing to note is that pregnancy discrimination cases tend not to go to trial, as employers prefer the certainty of a settlement over the uncertainty of a jury verdict and the possibility.
As employees become better informed about their rights and coverage for pregnancy-related conditions, pregnancy discrimination cases have also been on the rise—nearly 3,000 pregnancy discrimination charges filed with the EEOC in 2019, according to federal data. And claim settlements reached $22.4 million in 2019, up 32 percent from the yearly average of around $17 million from 2010 to 2018—not including court settlements.
How Do I Deal with Pregnancy Discrimination at Work?
If you or a loved one are facing pregnancy discrimination from a job or prospective employer in San Diego, contact our discrimination attorneys at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP for legal advice.
Our employment law firm specializes in representing individuals and works in all aspects of employment law, including cases involving workplace discrimination. Our employment law attorneys can provide you with specific legal assistance and advice for any employment issue.