The Pregnancy Discrimination Act amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions constitutes unlawful sex discrimination under Title VII, which covers employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. Title VII also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations, as well as to the federal government.

It is illegal under both Federal and State Law to discriminate in the "terms or conditions of employment" on the basis of a person's pregnancy. This includes discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Accommodating Pregnancy Employers have a number of responsibilities to employees who become pregnant. For instance, if a woman becomes pregnant, and with the advice of her doctor asks for a position that is less strenuous or hazardous the employer must transfer her to another position if it has one, or can make one without being "unduly burdened." Basically, if its not too much trouble for the employer to accommodate the woman's needs, he has to do it. Pregnancy Family Medical Leave Federal Title VII Law does not explicitly require employers to grant Pregnancy leave, although it does prohibit Pregnancy discrimination. However, the Federal Law does require employers to grant medical leaves, which are applicable to pregnant women (See separate section on family and medial leave). 

Title VII's pregnancy-related protections include:

  • Hiring

    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 and Maternity Leave

    An employer may not single out pregnancy-related conditions for special procedures to determine an employee's ability to work. However, if an employer requires its employees to submit a doctor's statement concerning their inability to work before granting leave or paying sick benefits, the employer may require employees affected by pregnancy-related conditions to submit such statements.

    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. For example, if the employer allows temporarily disabled employees to modify tasks, perform alternative assignments, or take disability leave or leave without pay, the employer also must allow an employee who is temporarily disabled because of pregnancy to do the same.

    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. An employer also may not have a rule that prohibits an employee from returning to work for a predetermined length of time after childbirth.

    Employers must hold open a job for a pregnancy-related absence the same length of time jobs are held open for employees on sick or disability leave.

  • 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.

Years of Experience

Chris McKinney has been has been practicing employment law since 1996, is Board Certified in Labor and Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, and represents employees who have been the victims of pregnancy discrimination.  If you believe you have been terminated or otherwise discriminated against for exercising your legal rights, please contact us to make an appointment to speak with us about your case.