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What rights do pregnant workers have?

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978 aims to ensure giving birth does not need to hurt a woman’s career. Yet, it has not stopped pregnancy discrimination from occurring. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), 50,000 women filed pregnancy discrimination claims in the ten years up to 2020.

Do employers need to treat pregnant women the same as other employees?

If you are unhappy with how your employer is treating you, seek legal advice to assess your situation. The PDA acknowledges that a pregnant woman might not be able to perform her role in the way she could before. Therefore it treats pregnant women as being temporarily disabled. Employers must make concessions as they would when any employee is temporarily disabled from doing their job.

What does the Pregnancy Discrimination Act forbid?

The PDA prohibits discrimination in the following areas:

  • Hiring
  • Firing
  • Promoting
  • Training
  • Pay
  • Leave and benefits
  • Assigning work

Employers need to provide reasonable accommodation to help a woman do her job during pregnancy or after childbirth. It could include the flexibility to attend medical appointments or providing a seat rather than expecting her to stand all day.

If pregnant, you may take time off under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). As with any time off under the FMLA, your employer must hold your job open. They cannot discriminate against you because you are taking your entitled time off.

Can I breastfeed at work?

In general, employers need to allow women breaks to breastfeed but may expect them to do it in a private room rather than sitting at their desk. As with the other rules related to workplace discrimination, some employers may claim exemption.