Pregnancy discrimination occurs when an employee or job applicant is treated unfavorably due to pregnancy, or a pregnancy-related medical condition. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) prohibits this type of discrimination in the course of any aspect of employment.
When a woman is unable to perform certain job duties due to a pregnancy-related health condition, she must be treated in the same manner as any another temporarily disabled employee would be treated. Further, some impairments that are common during pregnancy, such as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes, are covered disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). As such, employers may have to provide reasonable accommodations for an employee suffering from these temporary medical conditions. Reasonable accommodations could include temporary leave, or modifications to the office, duties, or schedule.
Hostile Work Environment
If a woman feels that she has been harassed, or in any way discriminated against, due to her pregnancy, she may wish to file a discrimination claim. Unlawful discrimination occurs when harassment is frequent and severe enough that it creates a hostile work environment. Discrimination can also occur in the absence of harassment, however. For example, if a pregnant woman is demoted or fired because of her pregnancy or pregnancy-related medical condition, these may be grounds for a discrimination claim. A MA employment law attorney can help you recover damages if you’ve been discriminated against in the workplace.
If temporarily disabled employees are permitted to take disability leave, the same policy must apply to pregnant women. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides pregnant employees with additional rights, and many of these rights extend to new mothers. In the past, along with the PDA and FMLA, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act has been used by pregnant employees, and those who have recently become mothers, to fight workplace discrimination. In fact, discrimination lawsuits filed by new mothers and pregnant women have seen a dramatic increase in the last decade, and these lawsuits have a higher success rate than many other types of discrimination lawsuits.
The Right to Express Milk
New mothers often have a need to express milk during working hours. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, which is enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor, nursing mothers have the right to take breaks for the purpose of expressing milk. Employers must provide “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.” In addition, employers must provide “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.”
These breaks must be provided as frequently as the nursing mother requires, and for a reasonable amount of time. Although the FLSA does not specifically require employers to compensate nursing mothers during breaks for the purpose of expressing milk, if other types of breaks are already compensated for, the nursing mother must be compensated in the same way. A Boston employment law attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been discriminated against at work. Continue reading