US Immigration and New York Employment Law

Pregnancy Discrimination

Pregnancy should be one of the most exciting periods of a woman’s life. Unfortunately, too often women are treated unfavorably at their workplace, because of their pregnancy or medical condition related to the pregnancy. Аs numerous sociological studies show, pregnant women are still at a severe disadvantage in the job market. They are often viewed as less committed or even less competent than other females. When hired (if hired) they are offered lower salaries than their competitors, and at their workplace they could be held to higher standard of performance than other employees.

Until the late 1970-s women did not have many remedies to fight against pregnancy discrimination. For instance, in 1974 the Supreme Court ruled against Carolyn Aiello who experienced disability as a result of complications during her pregnancy. The Court found no violation when a California disability insurance program excluded benefits for pregnancy related disabilities. In this decision the Court ruled that such an exclusion of pregnancy from a health plan did not violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited gender discrimination at workplace (Geduldig v. Aielllo, 417 U.S. 484 (1974).

In 1976 the Supreme Court ruled in favor of General Electric, which health insurance plan for employees did not provide pregnancy related coverage (General Electric v. Gilbert, 429 U.S. 125 (1976). It turned out that employers could exclude conditions related to pregnancy from employee sickness and accident benefits plans.

The situation turned around only in 1978, when Congress enacted the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). This Act prohibits any pregnancy related employment discrimination including any aspects of hiring, firing, wage, overtime, promotion and benefits, leave and health insurance etc. Under the PDA, if a pregnant woman cannot fully perform her employment duties because of certain medical conditions, her employer should treat her like any other temporarily disabled employee. It could be by letting her perform lighter duties, offering disability or pregnancy leave etc.
Some pregnancy related impairments can be qualified as disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993, a mother or another new parent (including foster and adoptive parents) can take a 12 weeks unpaid parental leave.

All forms and variations of discrimination related to pregnancy or an intention to become pregnant are prohibited by law. If you experienced any type of discrimination related to your pregnancy or intention to become pregnant, don’t hesitate to contact your employment discrimination attorney.