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Discriminating against workers based on pregnancy is prohibited under federal and state law. This type of discrimination may take the form of firing an employee, demoting them, or refusing to promote or hire a worker who is pregnant. It may also include denying certain accommodations for a pregnant worker. If you experienced job discrimination based on pregnancy, seek help from a California employment lawyer immediately.

What the Law States

The Civil Rights Act of 1964, called Title VII, prohibits sex discrimination, including discrimination practices against pregnant employees.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

Pregnant workers can also exert unfair treatment claims under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). This law requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee with a limitation that is related to pregnancy, childbirth, or a similar condition. The employer must follow this course of action unless it causes them undue hardship.

What an Employer Cannot Do If an Employee Needs an Accommodation

Under federal law or the PWFA, an employer cannot:

  • Require a pregnant worker to accept an accommodation without first discussing the proposed accommodation.
  • Deny a job or other work opportunity to a qualified employee or job applicant if they require a reasonable accommodation.
  • Require a pregnant worker to take time off if they can provide a reasonable accommodation.
  • Retaliate against a worker for reporting unlawful discrimination under the PWFA or an investigation conducted under the PWFA.
  • Interfere with a worker’s rights under the PWFA.

The Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) covers employees who develop a disability related to their pregnancy. For instance, if the employee develops diabetes when they’re pregnant, this condition may fall under this legislation. 

While pregnancy, in and of itself, is not considered a disability, some pregnant women may experience one or more impairments related to their pregnancy. Therefore, the development of these disabilities may force an employer to provide reasonable accommodations.

How to File a Complaint

If you’ve experienced pregnancy discrimination, you need to speak to an employment lawyer about your rights. You might need to submit a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 days of the incident. 

The EEOC will then review your complaint, which may be resolved through mediation or another method. As a worker in California, you can also file a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). 

The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) allows a pregnant employee to take Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) for up to 16 weeks – as long as an employer has five or more employees. The employee may also take a paid 12-week baby bonding leave.

Types of Accommodations for Pregnant Employees

Accommodations for pregnant workers may include:

  • Making changes to the work schedule
  • Altering job responsibilities
  • Making modifications to the work environment

The above accommodations are designed to allow an employee to continue work without jeopardizing the health of their unborn child.

More specific examples may include:

  • Providing a chair for women who need to sit during their employment shift
  • Permitting frequent restroom breaks
  • Adapting work schedules to support prenatal appointments and care

It may also involve a job reassignment if the worker’s current duties pose a risk to their pregnancy.

Documenting Incidents of Discrimination

If you experience discrimination, it’s important to record all incidents of discrimination or unfair treatment. Note down dates, times, and details of actions or conversations, as this documentation is critical if you decide to file a complaint or take legal action. 

Getting the Legal Help You Need

Seeking legal assistance is another step in safeguarding your rights. An experienced employment attorney can provide guidance through the complaint filing process and ensure that your rights remain protected.

They can also offer advice on how best to handle situations at work and negotiate accommodations with your employer. 

If you have any doubts about your rights or if you need clarification about your situation, it’s advisable to seek guidance and support from an employment attorney.

Contact Mara Law to Discuss Your Employment Rights Today

Do you believe you are being treated unfairly in the workplace? If so, contact an employment lawyer to discuss your case right away. Call Mara Law today.

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by attorney David Mara who has more than 20 years of legal experience in employment law.

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