Pregnancy DiscriminationPregnant Employees Have the Right to Work in An Environment Free from Employment Discrimination

Pregnancy is a medical condition that comes with protection from discrimination in the workplace. Whether you need reasonable accommodations during the workday, medical leave, or protection against discrimination, retaliation, and wrongful termination, federal and state laws prohibit employers from targeting you for negative employment actions due to your pregnancy.

As a pregnant employee or job applicant, you have several rights in the workplace. Make sure you know your rights to avoid any adverse (or negative) treatment from your employer, coworkers, managers, supervisors, or clients in the workplace.

1. Federal and State Laws Protect Against Pregnancy Discrimination in Hiring

Federal and state laws prohibit employment discrimination in the hiring process. Many times, employers will assume a pregnant woman is not capable of doing her job. A potential employer may choose another job applicant who is not pregnant or considering becoming pregnant. Using pregnancy to eliminate employees allows the employer to avoid the potential issues that may come with pregnancy in the workplace.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits this type of discrimination. Since pregnancy is a protected class, employers may not use it as the reason to deny an employee a job opportunity, a promotion, a raise, or any other employment advancement.

2. You Are Entitled to Proper Accommodations, Including Medical Leave

Employers are required to reasonably accommodate pregnant employees unless it causes severe stress on the company (undue hardship). Some accommodations may include providing an adjusted workspace, increased bathroom breaks, an adjusted work schedule, the ability to sit as often as needed, the ability to carry water on the showroom floor, or medical leave as needed (to name a few). Additionally, reasonable accommodations must include unpaid time off for maternity leave and childbirth.

Employers must provide the same accommodations to pregnant employees that they would provide temporarily disabled employees. In addition, employers cannot force a pregnant employee to take medical leave or quit due to pregnancy. If a pregnant woman can do her job and wants to do her job, an employer must permit her to work.

3. Your Employer-Provided Health Insurance Must Cover Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a medical condition. Many pregnancies include pregnancy-related conditions. Any employer-provided health insurance policy must cover pregnancy and all related conditions. The only exception is abortion unless it is necessary to save a mother’s life.

Examples of pregnancy-related conditions may include:

  • Preeclampsia
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Tilted uterus
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Infections
  • Preterm labor
  • Miscarriage
  • Congenital disabilities
  • Stillbirth
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Severe nausea
  • Anemia
  • Placental abruption
  • Postpartum hemorrhage
  • Cesarean section
  • Postpartum depression
  • Postpartum psychosis

Your health insurance must cover these issues and more. In addition, there should be no difference between reimbursements of pregnancy-related conditions and other temporary disability or medical conditions.

Spousal Benefits

Men and women must be offered the same spousal benefits for insurance. In other words, a female employee must be offered the same health coverage for her family as a male employee. Anything less is a form of gender discrimination.

4. You Are Entitled to Employee Benefits No Matter Your Marital and Familial Status

Pregnancy benefits and insurance benefits are not limited to pregnant women that are married. Any pregnant woman is entitled to receive the same health and disability benefits afforded to anyone who is temporarily disabled. This rule applies to all pregnant women without exception.

Pregnant employees on leave must receive the same treatment as any disabled employee on leave, such as crediting seniority, vacation time, pay increases, temporary disability benefits, and seniority accrual.

5. Federal Laws Protect Pregnant Employees from Employment Discrimination

Two federal laws protect pregnant employees at different parts of their pregnancy.

1. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from making any negative employment decisions due to an employee’s pregnancy.
2. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows qualified employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid medical leave for pregnancy-related conditions. It also allows mothers to use this leave for childbirth and maternity leave.

When you return to work, you must receive the same job or an equal position to the one you had when you left. You must have the option to maintain your employer-sponsored health insurance policy at the same price as the employer pays.


Finally, no employer may retaliate against a pregnant employee for exercising her rights under the law. You cannot get fired from work (wrongful termination), demoted, experience shift changes, or receive negative employment reviews as an act of retaliation. Your pregnancy rights include:

  • Taking medical leave
  • Requesting accommodations
  • Filing a charge for pregnancy discrimination
  • Filing a complaint with HR for pregnancy discrimination
  • Testifying in a case regarding pregnancy discrimination
  • Participating in a Title VII or PDA investigation, proceeding, or litigationMany states maintain local laws providing protections for pregnant employees.

6. Local Laws Also Protect Pregnant Employees from Employment Discrimination

  1. New York State Law prohibits employers of 4 or more employees from making negative employment decisions against pregnant employees. It also required employers to accommodate pregnant employees as needed properly. Finally, it prohibits employers from forcing pregnant women to take maternity leave when they can still work.
  2. New York Paid Family Leave provides paid maternity leave to working mothers.
  3. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination requires all employers to accommodate pregnant employees, regardless of the number of employees. It also prohibits all employers from making negative employment decisions based on your pregnancy.
  4. The New Jersey Family Leave Insurance provides paid leave for employees. You pay a small percentage of your pay into the policy. When you need to take medical leave or maternity leave, you can access the insurance. It will provide a portion of your income while on medical leave. The policy provides up to 6 weeks of leave in a 1-year span.
  5. New Jersey also provides employees the option to use temporary disability insurance through the state to pay for maternity leave. You can receive four weeks before childbirth and 6 to 8 weeks after childbirth.
  6. The Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance prohibits any discrimination against pregnant employees in Philadelphia companies.
  7. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act Protects Pennsylvania’s pregnant employees from pregnancy discrimination on the state level.
  8. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibits employers with five or more employees from making negative employment decisions based on an employee’s pregnancy. These decisions include refusing an employee’s reasonable accommodation.
  9. California’s Paid Family Leave Act provides the right for employees working for a company for at least a year to take six weeks of paid leave.

The Experienced Pregnancy Discrimination Attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group Are Here to Help.

Federal and state laws prohibit your employer from discriminating against you because you are pregnant. It is important to know your rights and fight for them when needed. If you are the victim of pregnancy discrimination at work, the Derek Smith Law Group’s experienced attorneys can help.

Did You Experience Discrimination or Retaliation at Work Because You Are Pregnant? Do You Want to Know More About Your Rights? Please Call Us at 800.807.2209 for a Free Consultation to Learn More About Your Rights.