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Pregnancy Discrimination

If you feel that your pregnancy has cost you your job or a position within your company, your employer may have broken the law.  The law provides several protections for women who become pregnant while they are working.

Federal law makes it illegal for an employer (with more than 15 employees) to discriminate against a woman on the basis of pregnancy. Under Federal law, this protection for women in the workplace arises from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended. These laws make it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee in the workplace on the basis of sex. Furthermore, the Act, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, defines on the "basis of sex" to include "on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions." Finally, the Act states that "women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes . . . as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work. . . ."

In addition to Title VII, the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 ("FMLA") provides that eligible employees may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year "for the birth of a son or daughter of the employee and in order to care for such son or daughter." Unfortunately, the FMLA does not cover all employees.  Rather, it only covers employees that have worked for an employer for 12 months and have worked at least 1,250 hours of service for that employer. Moreover, the FMLA also only applies to employees who work for an employer that employs 50 or more employees within a 75 mile radius of the employee's worksite. The FMLA also makes it illegal for an employer "to interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of or the attempt to exercise" FMLA rights.  For example, it is illegal for an employer to terminate an eligible employee for taking FMLA leave.

Lastly, in some instances, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), may also provide certain protections for pregnant employees. While the law in this area is still being developed and is uncertain, courts have found that the ADA may provide protection, under some circumstances, for women who experience complications from pregnancy.  Generally, the ADA requires employers to reasonably accommodate the known disabilities of otherwise qualified employees unless the employer can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer. An employee is qualified for protection under the ADA if she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, is regarded as having such an impairment, or has a record of such an impairment. Where a complication from pregnancy may be found to meet one of these standards, an employee may have rights under the ADA.

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