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What is the Pregnancy Discrimination Act?

Nicole Madison
Updated May 17, 2024
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The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 is an amendment to Title VII of the United States Civil Rights Act of 1964. It essentially makes it illegal for companies that have at least 15 employees to discriminate against women because they are pregnant or have had a baby. It also prohibits discrimination against women because of medical issues that may result from pregnancy or childbirth. The act provides certain protections for women who apply for jobs while pregnant as well as those who are already established in employment during pregnancy.

One of the protections afforded by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act is related to hiring situations. The language of the act makes it illegal for United States employers to refuse to hire a woman because she is pregnant or because she has a condition that is related to pregnancy or childbirth. Instead, an employer is supposed to consider pregnant job applicants in the same way they consider other applicants. If a pregnant woman is well qualified for a job, the act is supposed to protect her from being passed over because she is expecting a child.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act also includes languages that covers leaves of absence and other absences from work. The act prohibits employers from forcing pregnant women into taking leave time. If they are able to handle their job duties, they cannot be forced to take leave. If a pregnant women is temporarily unable to work, however, an employer is supposed to treat her just as he would another employee who is temporarily disabled. If that employee would be allowed to modify his schedule, take on less strenuous tasks, or stay home on disability leave, the employer must allow a pregnant woman to do the same.

Absences are also covered in the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. If a pregnant woman cannot work because of a condition related to her pregnancy, she must be allowed to return to work once she's recovered. Her employer cannot insist that she wait until her child is born. An employer is also prohibited from compelling a woman to stay home for a particular length of time after having a baby. He must also hold a job for her for as long as he would normally hold one for any other temporarily disabled employee.

As far as medical and other pregnancy-related benefits are concerned, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act requires employers to cover conditions related to pregnancy in the same manner that they cover other health issues. Abortion is an exception to this rule, and coverage is usually only required if the pregnancy puts a woman's life at risk. Additionally, this act prohibits employers from denying pregnancy benefits to employees who are not married.

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Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a America Explained writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.
Discussion Comments
By discographer — On Nov 08, 2014

I'm so happy that we have laws protecting women's rights at the workplace. During my mother's time, women were often laid off when they were pregnant. Some employers refused to hire women fearing that they may get pregnant.

By stoneMason — On Nov 08, 2014

@serenesurface-- I'm not an expert on this but I think those points are also covered by anti-discrimination laws. A woman cannot be fired, given a different job or her income reduced because she is pregnant. A woman can easily take to court any employer who does this and I don't think it would be difficult to prove either.

So there are no exceptions to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. If anyone has concern that their rights are not given to them or they are being discriminated against due to pregnancy, a legal adviser should be consulted.

By serenesurface — On Nov 07, 2014

Although it is unlawful to discriminate against a woman at a workplace because she is pregnant, I think it does occur. This doesn't necessarily mean that the woman is not hired or fired when she is pregnant, but she may be given a different position or her income may be lowered. Companies who don't want a pregnant employee may look for other ways to make the job less desirable by her. I'm sure that this is more of an issue in some industries than others. I think it's an issue in media for example.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a America Explained writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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