The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978

How the Law Protects You From Pregnancy Discrimination at Work

Working pregnant woman
••• How can the Pregnancy Discrimination Act protect you?. Hill Street Studios / Stockbyte / Getty Images

Pregnancy is usually a very happy event for most women. It is news one looks forward to sharing with all her friends and family including those people with whom she spends a significant part of her life—her coworkers. Your initial urge, once you learn of your own pregnancy, may be to rush into work to tell everyone your good news. However, even when this is an event that makes you very happy, you are well-advised to initially keep your news out of the office.

Before you say anything to your boss or coworkers you should make a point of knowing your legal rights, namely those protected by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978.

What is the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978?

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It prohibits employers from discriminating against workers based on pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. It affects only companies that employ 15 or more people. The ​Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

How Does the Pregnancy Discrimination Act Protect You?

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Pregnancy Discrimination Act requires employers to treat pregnant women the same way they do other employees or job applicants who are not pregnant. The law states that:

  • an employer cannot refuse to hire someone because she is pregnant or has a pregnancy-related condition.
  • an employer can't require a pregnant woman to submit to special procedures in order to determine whether she can perform her job duties unless the employer requires all employees to submit to those procedures.
  • An employer must treat a pregnant woman who can't perform her job due to a medical condition related to her pregnancy the same way he treats all temporarily disabled employees.
  • An employer may not keep a pregnant woman from working and may not prohibit a woman from returning to work after giving birth.
  • Any employer-provided health insurance plan must treat pregnancy-related conditions the same as it treats other medical conditions.
  • Pregnant employees cannot be asked to pay a larger health insurance deductible than other employees do.

What Should You Do If Your Boss Fails to Abide by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act?

According to "How to Protect Yourself Against Pregnancy Discrimination" (Susan Freinkel, Babytalk, April 1998, 75-76), many women are fired or passed over for a promotion after they announce their pregnancy. The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) received 5,797 complaints about pregnancy-based discrimination in 2011 (​​Pregnancy Discrimination. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). After rising in 2008, the number of complaints ​have been decreasing over the last few years. Still, a significant number of employers continue to disregard the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. If you think you have been a victim of pregnancy discrimination, you can file a charge with the EEOC. Go to the EEOC Web Site and read the rules for Filing a Charge of Employment Discrimination.

Another Federal Law That Protects the Rights of Pregnant Women

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) allows pregnant women to take time off for childbirth or due to complications related to pregnancy, or to care for a newborn.

Source: Pregnancy Discrimination. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission.