Updates to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act: What Every Woman Should Know
Did you know that about 75 percent of the 68 million women working in the United States will become pregnant at some point in their lives? Historically, pregnant women and women with pregnancy-related medical conditions have at times faced significant discrimination in the workplace.
In 1978, Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) in an effort to eliminate pregnancy-based discrimination. Although the PDA and lawsuits filed under the PDA have helped alleviate some long-standing injustices, pregnancy discrimination is still a reality for many workers. The PDA prohibits discrimination in all aspects of employment, including hiring, firing, promotion, pay, and other employment benefits. It not only prohibits facially discriminatory policies that limit or preclude women from performing specific jobs simply because they are fertile or pregnant, but also prohibits actions or policies which disparately impact women because they are pregnant or able to become pregnant. Importantly, however, the PDA only covers employers with 15 or more employees. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued on July 14, 2014 the Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues, along with a question and answer document about the guidance and a fact sheet for small businesses. The Enforcement Guidance, Q&A document, and Fact Sheet are available on the EEOC’s website.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA) had its first comprehensive overhaul of its guidelines in more than 30 years. Here’s what has been updated:
These rules apply to every woman. They affect women who are currently pregnant, who have the intention or potential to get pregnant, and those have also been pregnant in the past. This is true even if the employer believes it is acting in the employee’s best interest. The new revitalization also includes taking contraceptives; your employer can not fire you for taking them. Please note: In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., the Supreme Court recently ruled that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) as applied to closely held for-profit corporations whose owners had religious objections to providing certain types of contraceptives. EEOC’s Enforcement Guidance explains Title VII’s prohibition of pregnancy discrimination. It, however, does not address whether certain employers might be exempt from Title VII’s requirements under the RFRA or under the Constitution’s First Amendment.
Caregivers are covered. The law protects caregiver (i.e. Moms, Dads, Grandmas, Grandpas, Sisters, Brother, Aunts and Uncles, etc.) The new guideline read that parental leave which is separate from the childbirth related medical leave must be offered to the new care givers. In a recent Atlantic article it discusses how “Taking Paternity Leave Makes Other Dads More Likely to Do the Same.” But research from economists Gordon B. Dahl, Katrine V. Løken, and Magne Mogstad, published this month in The American Economic Review, shows that, when paid paternity leave is made available by law, fathers do use it. More importantly, this isn’t just because the law exists; rather, it’s because when some individuals take leave, that seems to reduce the stigma and encourage peers to take time off, too.
Light Duty. A pregnant employee needs light duty (temporary work that is less physically demanding than her normal duties), but is the employer required under the PDA to provide it? Yes, if it provides light duty for employees who are not pregnant but who are similar in their ability or inability to work then they need to. An employer may not treat pregnant workers differently from employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work based on the cause of their limitations. For example, an employer may not deny light duty to a pregnant employee based on a policy that limits light duty to employees with on-the-job injuries. Consistent with the language of the law, the EEOC’s position is that the PDA requires only that an employer treat pregnant workers the same as it treats workers who are not pregnant but who are similar in their ability or inability to work. Thus, an employer may offer light duty to pregnant employees on the same terms that it offers light duty to other workers similar in their ability or inability to work. For example, if an employer’s policy places certain types of restrictions on the availability of light duty positions, such as limits on the number of light duty positions or the duration of light duty, the employer may lawfully apply the same restrictions to pregnant workers as it applies to non-pregnant workers. If an employer does not provide light duty to employees who are not pregnant, it does not have to do so for pregnant workers.
Getting “reasonable break time” and a private place to nurse or pump is required. Nursing mothers also get time and a space to pump or breastfeed. If your boss or coworkers call you out, it is considers sex discrimination, under the law as only women can lactate. In addition to being protected under the PDA, female hourly employees who are breastfeeding have rights under other laws, including a provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that amended the Fair Labor Standards Act to require employers to provide reasonable break time and a private place for breastfeeding employees to express milk. The Department of Labor has published a Fact Sheet providing general information on the break time requirement for nursing mothers.
Stay informed and know your rights. What do you think about these new revisions to the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA)?
The following is a review and is meant to inform the general audience. Originally posted on OnlineCareerTips.com