Understanding pregnancy discrimination

New York women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant in the future should be aware of the provisions of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. It is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and asserts that women who are pregnant or are experiencing medical conditions related to a pregnancy should be treated the same as other employees or job applicants who have the similar work capabilities. Workplace discrimination due to pregnancy, childbirth or any associated medical conditions is considered to be unlawful sex discrimination under Title VII.

An employer is prohibited from refusing to hire a pregnant woman as long as she is able to execute the major functions of her job. The PDA also prohibits discrimination because of an employer’s prejudices or those of clients, customers or co-workers against pregnant workers. The amendment applies to every aspect of employment, including wages, work tasks, layoffs, training, terminations, promotions and benefits.

With regard to pregnancy and maternity leave, the PDA prohibits an employer from targeting pregnancy-related conditions for medical clearance procedures if the procedures are not required of other employees who have a similar ability to work. Employees who are pregnant should be allowed to work for as long as they can perform their duties. The PDA also includes provisions concerning discrimination pertaining to pregnancy and temporary disability, health insurance and equal access to work benefits.

A pregnant woman who is discriminated against by her employer because of her condition may have legal recourse. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is in charge of enforcing the PDA, and an attorney representing a woman who has been wrongfully discharged due to her condition could assist in the preparation and filing of a claim with that federal agency.

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