Pregnant employees have protection through the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. This federal law prevents employers from discriminating against pregnant workers in all aspects of the workplace.

Review the characteristics of pregnancy discrimination and actions women can take to combat unfair treatment at work.

Rights under the PDA

The law prohibits any unfavorable treatment of pregnant workers. These employees must receive the same opportunities as nonpregnant workers, including comparable treatment in areas such as:

  • Health benefits
  • Sick leave
  • Vacation
  • Training opportunities
  • Firing and layoffs
  • Promotions and raises
  • Pay
  • Job assignments
  • Hiring

Common forms of pregnancy discrimination

Pregnant women may not realize that certain situations constitute discrimination. Some of the ways employers discriminate against pregnant women include:

  • Refusing accommodations for temporary pregnancy-related disability, such as alternative work assignments or leave, when other temporarily disabled employees receive these accommodations
  • Creating a hostile work environment by allowing frequent and unwanted comments about the pregnancy
  • Failing to hold the job of a pregnant woman who qualifies for maternity leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act
  • Denying a promotion to, demoting or firing the employee
  • Reassigning the employee to a different job role without a reason for the change
  • Excluding the employee from team meetings and limiting the information she receives

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act covers women who work for companies that have 15 or more employees. A pregnant woman who faces discrimination at work only has 180 days after the discriminatory act to file a federal lawsuit. Possible remedies for a successful case include reinstatement, back pay, hiring, promotion, financial damages and punitive damages.