Do Employers Have to Provide Accommodations for Pregnant Employees?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on June 05, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Hot on the heels of John Oliver's evisceration of America's abysmal family leave benefits for new parents, Congress is trying to strengthen employment protections for some soon-to-be parents. A new, bipartisan bill would require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees.

The new legislation comes in response to a recent Supreme Court ruling which said that employment policies that provide accommodations for disabled workers must do the same for pregnant workers. So how are pregnant employees protected now, and how might they be under the proposed new law?

A Different Kind of PDA

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act requires employers to treat pregnant employees the same as other employees. Employers cannot discriminate based on pregnancy when it comes to hiring, firing, pay, or work assignments. Specifically, the PDA requires employers to:

  • Treat pregnant employees like any other temporarily disabled employees if they are temporarily unable to perform their job;
  • Refrain from and prevent any harassment based on pregnancy, childbirth, or medical condition based on pregnancy; and
  • Provide the same pregnancy, maternal, and parental leave to pregnant employees as it does to temporarily disabled employees.

Pregnant employees may also have protections under the Family Medical Leave Act, and many states have additional protections for workers who are pregnant or nursing.

A New Kind of Protection

The Supreme Court created a new rule for proving pregnancy discrimination: an employee must show that she was denied an accommodation that was granted to similarly situated, non-pregnant workers. The new bill, sponsored by Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, would make pregnant employees as protected as any other in the workplace.

The increase of women in the workplace has been coupled with a rise in pregnancy discrimination claims. While it may be difficult for pregnant employees to prove they were passed over for promotions, claims that they were denied reasonable accommodations are somewhat easier, and this new bill will only help.

If you think you've been discriminated against based on your pregnancy, you may want to discuss your case with an experienced employment law attorney.

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