Pregnancy Discrimination and Temporary Disability

Employment Law Attorney Committed to Helping Atlanta Workers and Employers

A normal, healthy pregnancy is not generally considered a disability. A pregnant employee may, however, become temporarily disabled during this period. Employers are required to treat pregnancy-related disabilities in the same way that other temporary disabilities are treated. If the impairment qualifies as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), the employee will also have the rights available under that Act. The experienced pregnancy discrimination lawyers at Parks, Chesin & Walbert understand all of the relevant laws and can advise Atlanta employees and employers on how to handle any issues that arise.

Pregnancy Discrimination Laws

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as well as the employment discrimination provisions of the ADA. In fiscal year 2014, the EEOC received 3,400 charges of pregnancy discrimination. This number reflects a slight decrease in the number of complaints filed. In fact, there has been a slight decrease in the number of charges each year since 2010.

Title VII makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees based on sex. Title VII was amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (“PDA”) to include discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions in sex-based discrimination. The law requires employers to treat women who are pregnant or affected by childbirth or a related condition in the same way as other similarly capable employees. If an employee is disabled by a pregnancy, childbirth, or related condition, she must be given the leave or accommodations that any other temporarily disabled employee would receive.

Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”)

If the pregnancy or related medical condition results in an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, that impairment qualifies as a disability under the ADA and gives rise to the protections available under that Act.

The ADA prohibits discrimination against a “qualified individual” on the basis of a disability. If the employee is able to perform the essential functions of the job, either with or without reasonable accommodation, she is a “qualified individual.”

Employers must provide qualified individuals with reasonable accommodations that would allow them to do the job, unless the reasonable accommodation would cause an undue hardship on business operations. For a pregnant employee, reasonable accommodations might include light duty or modified work duty.

An employer covered by the ADA cannot force a pregnant employee to go on unpaid leave if a reasonable modification of light duty would allow her to continue working. Failing to provide the reasonable accommodation would be a violation of the law. If the employer would have allowed a similarly capable male or non-pregnant female employee to go on light duty, forcing the pregnant employee to go on unpaid leave would also be sex-based discrimination under Title VII.

Federal Regulations

Pregnancy-related disabilities must also be treated the same as other disabilities under the employer’s insurance and leave plans pursuant to 29 C.F.R. § 1604.10. Employers must also apply the same leave, seniority, benefits, reinstatement, payment under insurance, and sick leave policies to a temporarily disabled pregnant employee as would be applied to other temporarily disabled workers. Additionally, leave, seniority accrual, benefits, reinstatement, and payment under health and disability insurance or sick leave policies and procedures must apply to pregnancy and childbirth-related disabilities under the same terms and conditions as applied to other disabilities.

Limited Time to Pursue a Claim

Before an employee can file a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit under either Title VII or the ADA, she must file a charge with the EEOC within 180 days of the unlawful conduct. This is a very short period of time, especially under the circumstances of a pregnant employee who is expecting a new child and may even give birth during that period. A woman who has experienced discrimination at work based on pregnancy or a related disability should contact an attorney immediately to ensure she preserves her rights to pursue a claim.

Legal Guidance in Atlanta for Matters Related to Sex Discrimination

Atlanta attorneys at Parks, Chesin & Walbert are knowledgeable in sex discrimination and sexual harassment matters that may affect a workplace. Whether you are an employee or an employer, you may need legal guidance if an issue arises. When that happens, we can explore the details of your situation and advise you on your options. Call us at 404-873-8048 or contact us online.

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