I’ve worked in at least two places where a colleague announces her pregnancy only to have a cold silence fall over management. They’d never be brazen enough to admit it, but some managers find pregnancy an annoyance and resent the employee for “disrupting” the workflow by getting pregnant. The U.S. already has one of the shortest maternity leave policies in the western world. Add to it the disdain of management, and pregnant women in the workforce may start to feel a little less than appreciated.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and made discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions illegal. Title VII, covers employers with 15 or more employees and includes state and local governments. Here’
Title VII’s pregnancy-related protections include:
An employer cannot refuse to hire a pregnant woman because of her pregnancy, because of a pregnancy-related condition, or because of the prejudices of co-workers, clients, or customers.
- Pregnancy & Maternity Leave
An employer may not single out pregnancy-related conditions for special procedures to determine an employee’s ability to work.
If an employee is temporarily unable to perform her job because of her pregnancy, the employer must treat her the same as any other temporarily disabled employee.
- Pregnant employees must be permitted to work as long as they are able to perform their jobs. If an employee has been absent from work as a result of a pregnancy-related condition and recovers, her employer may not require her to remain on leave until the baby’s birth.
- Health Insurance
Any health insurance provided by an employer must cover expenses for pregnancy-related conditions on the same basis as costs for other medical conditions. An employer need not provide health insurance for expenses arising from abortion, except where the life of the mother is endangered.
Pregnancy-related expenses should be reimbursed exactly as those incurred for other medical conditions, whether payment is on a fixed basis or a percentage of reasonable-and-customary-charge basis.
The amounts payable by the insurance provider can be limited only to the same extent as amounts payable for other conditions. No additional, increased, or larger deductible can be imposed.
Employers must provide the same level of health benefits for spouses of male employees as they do for spouses of female employees.
- Fringe Benefits
Pregnancy-related benefits cannot be limited to married employees. In an all-female workforce or job classification, benefits must be provided for pregnancy-related conditions if benefits are provided for other medical conditions.
If an employer provides any benefits to workers on leave, the employer must provide the same benefits for those on leave for pregnancy-related conditions.
Employees on leave because of pregnancy-related conditions must be treated the same as other temporarily disabled employees for accrual and crediting of seniority, vacation calculation, pay increases, and temporary disability benefits.
It is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on pregnancy or for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under Title VII.
The bottom line – Women who are pregnant or affected by pregnancy-related conditions must be treated in the same manner as other applicants or employees with similar abilities or limitations. For more information on EEOC polices, visit the EEOC’s website.