Pregnancy Discrimination: An Employee’s Quick Guide

When employment discrimination comes to mind, many people think of discrimination based on race, gender or disability. However, there are also protections for those who are treated differently because they are pregnant. These protections operate similar to those granted to people with temporary disabilities. Below are some facts about pregnancy discrimination that may help you understand if you have been discriminated against on the basis of being pregnant and whether that treatment was unlawful.

What is Pregnancy Discrimination?

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) forbids discrimination based upon pregnancy by an employer against an employee in any of the conditions of employment including hiring, firing, perks, benefits and various other conditions.

Federal Law and Pregnancy Discrimination

Although Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not contain any protections against pregnancy discrimination the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) was subsequently passed by Congress as an amendment to Title VII. This amendment provides protection for those discriminated against on the basis of being pregnant.

Some Specifics of the Law

Some of the specifics include an employer being required to allow the pregnant worker to work as long as they are able to during the pregnancy. If a pregnant employee misses time due to pregnancy related conditions the employer cannot require that they stay off work for an extended period of time. Additionally, if an employer has a policy where disabled people are allowed to take time off, they must apply the same policy to workers who miss time due to their pregnancy.

Hiring, Working, and Temporary Disability

The protections for pregnancy are similar to those for people with disabilities. Pregnancy essentially counts as a temporary disability. Thus an employer cannot refuse to hire on the basis of someone being pregnant and they must provide reasonable accommodations to a pregnant worker unless the accommodations produce an undue hardship upon the employer.

Health Insurance

The PDA requires that health insurance provided by an employer must cover pregnancy related conditions on the same basis as other medical conditions.

Equal Access to Benefits

If an employer provides any benefits to workers on temporary leave they must do the same for pregnant workers. Additionally, pregnant employees must be provided the same types of benefits given to disabled employees when it comes to such items as crediting of seniority, pay increases and temporary disability benefits.


The Pregnancy Discrimination Act provides protection from discrimination to those who are pregnant in the workplace. Pregnancy is treated much like a temporary disability and any differential treatment against pregnant workers is unlawful. Additionally, employers must provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees and all of the same health insurance and benefits that they would offer to similarly situated workers. To learn more about pregnancy discrimination or to find out if you have a case, contact a local employment attorney.[1]

[1] Religious Discrimination, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (2014)