Under both the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), pregnant women are protected against discrimination or harassment. Any employer with 15 or more employees cannot treat you unfairly due to your pregnancy. Your pregnancy cannot be used as grounds for dismissal, demotion, or rejection for a promotion. You cannot be put on involuntary leave either.
Your Rights Under the ADA and PDA
ADA and PDA work together to provide the protection you need during your pregnancy. It protects you during your pregnancy and after childbirth. It also offers protections for medical conditions related to pregnancy. Again, this only applies to you if your employer has 15 or more employees.
Your employer and co-workers cannot harass you either. If you’re being harassed or ridiculed for being pregnant, speak to your management or HR department. They are legally responsible to take action to stop the harassment.
If you’re pregnant, you have the right to work as long as you want. Your employer can’t force you to leave your position as your belly expands. If you have severe morning sickness, your employer cannot force you out of your job.
Instead, your employer has to do everything possible to accommodate you. If this will cause severe financial hardship, there are exceptions. If it will be too difficult to implement what you need, employers also have the right to come up with another option. If you have a condition related to your pregnancy and cannot stand for long, your employer must accommodate you. If you work on a production line and need to work from a seated position, your employer must arrange that. If you couldn’t lift heavy boxes and that’s the main portion of your job, you may need to be transferred for now.
Talk to your supervisor or HR department as soon as your doctor says you need special accommodations. They should immediately discuss how they can accommodate you. You may need a note from your OB/GYN to prove you need the accommodation. Do this as soon as possible. If you wait until your job performance is impacted, your employer could say you were dismissed due to your poor performance.
What if you just cannot go to work? There’s no way for your employer to accommodate you. You still cannot be terminated. You’re allowed 12 weeks of unpaid leave via FMLA. You have up to 12 weeks unpaid you can take off due to illness or a medical condition, and your job has to be held for you.
After your baby is born, Californians may qualify for a percentage of their income while they bond with their newborns. In California, eligible parents can get up to 70 percent of their income for up to six weeks under Paid Family Leave. In order to qualify, you must have earned at least $300 in wages that were subjected to California State Disability Insurance deductions. You also need paperwork proving that you need time to bond with your newborn and certificate from your doctor.
Examples of Pregnancy Discrimination Cases
Here are examples of pregnancy discrimination cases that have occurred since the PDA went into effect in 1978.
An Italian restaurant in California had to pay more than $18,000 to a pregnant woman who found her work hours cut after she told her manager she was pregnant. Ultimately, she was dismissed from her job as a restaurant server. Her management said they were forced to cut her hours as her pregnancy was causing problems and that she could take a lower-paying job or leave.
A Wisconsin Walmart was sued by a group of pregnant workers who were refused acceptance into a light-duty program that other workers were able to use. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against Walmart on behalf of the women. They’re suing for back pay, punitive and compensatory damages, and steps to make sure Walmart changes their policies.
What If You Feel You’ve Been Unfairly Dismissed?
Your employer cannot dismiss you for your pregnancy. If you are dismissed, you need to seek legal representation. An attorney can walk you through the steps to take. You can reach out to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and ask for help. If you file a complaint with that government agency, you have to do so within 180 days.
Take a few moments to call Shegerian Conniff. The California employment law attorneys offer free, confidential consultations. They’ll help you understand your rights and advise you on the best steps to take after you’re forced out of work. Call (310) 322-7500 or send an email to learn more.