Times have changed a lot in the past handful of decades. It used to be expected that women stayed home and raised the children while the man of the house worked. We’re not in that world anymore. Women can have it all, and that’s led to the importance of pregnancy and breastfeeding employment discrimination protections.
Pregnancy and childbirth protect people from discrimination. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 offers protections against discrimination to both job applicants and current employees who are:
- Currently are or may be pregnant
- Have given birth
- May or may not have an abortion
- Use birth control
- Are lactating or breastfeeding
- Have a health condition related to pregnancy or childbirth
There’s also the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). It requires a workplace with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations to women who are pregnant, childbirth, and medical conditions, such as gestational diabetes, that are related to pregnancy and childbirth.
There are exceptions if accommodating the worker would create “undue hardship” for the employer. Undue hardship isn’t a minor inconvenience, it’s issues that would lead to situations where the employer would have to spend a lot of money to make accommodations or have normal business schedules and production rates disrupted.
The Americans With Disabilities Act can also come into play to protect pregnant women if their pregnancy leads to a disability, such as severe morning sickness or a doctor’s order to sit rather than stand while working.
California Adds Additional Pregnancy, Breastfeeding, and Childbirth Protections
Those are federal laws. California has pregnancy discrimination laws, too. Specifically, the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) provides people who have worked for at least 12 months (1,250 hours) with up to 12 weeks of time off to bond with a child after adoption, childbirth, or foster care placement. It also covers health conditions that a child, parent, spouse, domestic partner, grandchild, grandparent, sibling, or other blood relatives have that require someone to care for them.
California also offers Pregnancy Disability Leave if you have a health condition and need time off before or after childbirth. Your OB/GYN will determine how much time you need for PDL for you to tell your employer. Your job has to be held for your return until the date given when you can return to work. You’re allowed up to four months of protection from job loss unless the company lays off staff in that time and you’re one of the laid-off employees.
Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) can also cover the need for more bathroom breaks, time off for prenatal appointments, and treatments after birth for postpartum depression. That’s just a small list of the situations that may require you to take PDL. While you are on PDL, your employer also needs to continue your group health insurance coverage.
If you are breastfeeding, you have the legal right to have a private space to pump milk during your work day or shift. That room must not be a bathroom or room where others can come and go as they place. You have the right to a room that others have to stay out of and that has a chair, table, electrical outlet, and storage area for the milk you’ve pumped.
Anyone who is pregnant, is recovering from childbirth, or has a pregnancy-related medication condition is protected by California’s pregnancy discrimination laws. Some of these are new, and key cases helped establish legal precedents for pregnancy discrimination laws in Los Angeles.
Specific Cases and Legal Precedents You Need to Know
While you have rights as a pregnant person or new mom, some of those rights haven’t been around as long as you might think. Two cases played a major role in advancing pregnancy rights in the workplace.
General Electric v. Gilbert
General Electric vs. Gilbert played out over much of 1976. At the time, General Electric offered benefits to employees with “nonoccupational illnesses and accidents.” But, a pregnant woman was not provided the same benefits because she was pregnant. The argument was that since pregnancy can only affect women, it was gender-based discrimination.
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of General Electric. The woman was part of the International Union of Electrical Radio and Machine Workers, which made the union try even harder to get equal treatment for all employees, regardless of gender. The union partnered with the AFL-CIO, Communication Workers of America, and Women’s Law Project and successfully got the Pregnancy Discrimination Act passed in 1978.
Young v. United Parcel Service
It’s sad to know that one of the most recent lawsuits that helped shape pregnancy discrimination laws happened in the past ten years. In Young vs. UPS, the pregnant Peggy Young was told not to lift more than 20 pounds during her pregnancy due to past miscarriages. UPS policies are that drivers must lift up to 70 pounds. UPS told her she couldn’t work, so she had to stay home during her pregnancy, took that leave unpaid, and lost her insurance in the process.
Young filed a discrimination complaint showing that UPS accommodates workers who are injured on the job, are covered by the ADA, or lost their DOT certification. UPS believed they were in the right since she didn’t fall into a situation with a workplace injury or loss of certification. The question came up as to why UPS was able to accommodate everyone but pregnant women. This played a part in the outcome that determined pregnant workers should be granted the same accommodations as any employee with a disability.
California laws legalizing the rights of a mother to breastfeed her child in any location went into effect on January 1, 1998. The idea was to end the practice of asking a nursing mom to leave, stop, or cover up while feeding a child.
Federal laws regarding breastfeeding changed in 2010 when the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was amended to require employers to give nursing mothers a reasonable break and private areas other than a bathroom the chance to express breast milk for the child’s first year. Employers with fewer than 50 employees could skip this rule if it would pose an undue hardship.
California followed up with a Lactation Accommodation law that went into effect in 2020 stating that all employers must provide reasonable breaks. Those breaks can run concurrently with other breaks, but the breaks do not have to be paid. The protection is in place for as long as the mother is nursing her child.
How Do You Get Help If You’re Experiencing Pregnancy Discrimination?
You believe you’re a victim of pregnancy discrimination. What do you do? It’s a stressful situation, and you’re a new mom or are experiencing pregnancy loss or health issues so stress is the last thing you need. An attorney specializing in pregnancy discrimination is here to help guide you through the process of filing a pregnancy discrimination complaint.
The attorneys at Shegerian Conniff are here to help you receive fair treatment. You don’t pay us anything, so don’t let fears of money keep you from asking for help. Give us a call or reach us online for your free consultation to learn more.