Pregnancy Discrimination at Work in Pennsylvania

Pregnancy Discrimination

What is Pregnancy Discrimination?

Pregnancy discrimination at work refers to treating a woman, whether it be an applicant or an employee, illegally due to pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth.

For example, it would be illegal for an employer to engage in pregnancy hiring discrimination—to refusing to hire someone because she is pregnant. Discrimination against pregnant employees can also result in being fired because of a pregnancy or pregnancy-related medical condition, which is illegal. Similarly, under certain circumstances, it would be illegal to fire someone who exceeded the company's stated leave policy because of a pregnancy-related medical condition, yet retain other employers who exceeded the leave policy for non-pregnancy related conditions.

What is the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and What Does it Cover?

Passed in 1978, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) made discrimination based on pregnancy- and childbirth-related medical conditions illegal. It is an amendment of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and defines discrimination against pregnant women as a violation of workers' civil rights and a form of sex discrimination.

The PDA – which some people call the pregnancy protection act – applies to employers with 15 or more employees and prohibits them from firing, refusing to hire, or otherwise discriminating against women based on pregnancy or a pregnancy-related condition. The act also says that, "…women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes."

For example, the PDA protects employees from having their benefits changed in any way. It requires that any leave protection given to those who have a disability must also be given to pregnant employees or to employees with a pregnancy-related medical condition. It also prohibits employers from requiring that an employee stay out of work until the birth of her baby.

Can You Legally Fire a Pregnant Woman?

A woman cannot be legally fired because she is pregnant. However, an employer is legally allowed to fire you while you are pregnant so long as it is not because of your pregnancy. Pennsylvania is an "employment at will" state. This means that your employer can fire you at any time for any reason (and even no reason) so long as it is not at least motivated in part by an illegal reason such as your pregnancy.

If your employer fires you for a violation of company policy or if they need to lay people off, your pregnancy generally will not protect you. However, you may have a claim if your employer treats you worse than others who violated the same or similar company policies or includes you in an otherwise valid lay off because of your pregnancy.

Unfortunately, pregnancy discrimination does exist, so it is worthwhile to consider your employer's stated reason for your termination. Think about if you were treated differently from non-pregnant employees or if your employer displayed any bias against pregnancy, childbirth, maternity leave, or parents in their decision.

If you suspect that you are the victim of pregnancy-related discrimination, contact our experienced employment law team today. Before you can file in court for pregnancy discrimination, a Charge of Discrimination must be filed with the Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC). Our attorneys can represent you at EEOC or PHRC for pregnancy discrimination. However, the timeline to file such a Charge is extremely short. That's why we recommend you contact one of our attorneys as soon as possible—you don't want to risk losing your rights forever because of a missed deadline.

We're available 24/7 by calling us at 412-394-1000, by filling out the form on this page, or by starting a chat.

Can a Job Turn You Down for Being Pregnant?

No – it is illegal to base hiring decisions on pregnancy. What the law says, however, is often different than what happens in real life, and pregnancy hiring discrimination does happen.

Can I Take Pregnancy Leave?

Under the PDA, if your employer allows temporarily disabled employees to take leave, they must also allow an employee who is temporarily disabled due to pregnancy to do the same.

In addition, according to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a new parent can be eligible for 12 weeks of leave if the employer has a specified number of employees. The employee must have worked for the employer for 12 months prior to taking leave.

Is Pregnancy Considered a Disability?

We've been asked if pregnancy is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the answer is that pregnancy alone isn't considered a disability.

However, complications resulting from pregnancy such as pregnancy-induced hypertension or gestational diabetes can qualify as disabilities under the ADA. In these cases, employers may be required to provide reasonable accommodations to the affected employee.

Contact Our Employment Law Attorneys Today to Discuss Your Options

Being illegally discriminated against at work is upsetting, confusing, and overwhelming. We're here to help. Our experienced employment law team can answer your legal questions and explain what your next steps are. We're available 24/7 by 412-394-1000, chat, or the form on this page.