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Is pregnancy discrimination in the workplace illegal?

When you hear the words “workplace discrimination,” you likely think about discrimination based on race, gender or sexual orientation. A less commonly talked about form of discrimination—which is nonetheless still an issue in the workplace—is pregnancy discrimination.

Pregnancy discrimination refers to any unfair treatment because one is, looks or is expected to become pregnant. It also encompasses discrimination based on factors relating to childbirth or pregnancy-related medical conditions. Examples of such discrimination include:

  • Being fired
  • Not being hired
  • Being bypassed for a promotion
  • Being patronized
  • Being treated with hostility

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) was passed in 1978 to help combat this form of discrimination. Nonetheless, many women continue to experience unjust treatment for being pregnant. In 2016, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received nearly 3,500 charges of pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.

How does the PDA protect me?

If you work for a company with at least 15 employees, you are protected under the PDA. (Some states have additional laws protecting women in smaller companies from pregnancy discrimination.) Under the PDA, you can’t be fired or demoted for telling your employer that you’re pregnant. If you believe your employer has violated the PDA and you file a complaint against them, the act also protects you from retaliation. If you take leave from work during your pregnancy, your employer is required to hold your job for you for the same amount of time as they would for anyone taking leave for sickness or disability.

If you believe you have been treated unfairly due to pregnancy-related reasons, an attorney experienced in workplace discrimination can help you understand your recourse.

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