As mentioned in a previous article related to breastfeeding, over the past decade, the number of Family Responsibility Discrimination (“FRD”) cases has been on the rise nationwide. According to UC Hasting College report entitled Caregivers in the Workplace – Family Responsibilities Discrimination Litigation Update 2016, the number of cases decided in the last decade (2006-2015, 3223 cases) is more than three times the number of cases decided in the prior decade (1996-2005, 873 cases), representing a 269% increase. Pregnancy discrimination remains commonplace, causing a 315% increase in pregnancy accommodation cases. Most of these cases involve women who want to continue working but need workplace accommodations. Cases involving pregnancy constitute 67% of all FRD claims. Although there are laws in place meant to protect pregnant women in the workforce, a California pregnancy discrimination attorney is not disillusioned that employers frequently violate those laws.
What Laws Protect Pregnant Women?
There are several state and federal laws that assist in protecting the rights of pregnant women.
Americans With Disabilities Act
The first is the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”), which applies to employers with 15 or more employees. It prohibits employment discrimination because of an employee’s actual or perceived disability. When the ADA was amended in 2008, the definition of “disability” was broadened, such that various conditions normally associated with pregnancy now fall within its purview and must be accommodated. Though pregnancy itself is not considered a disability, conditions such as migraine headaches, severe heartburn, morning sickness, urinary incontinence, fatigue, back pain, hypertension, gestational diabetes, and pre-eclampsia may fit the definition of disability. Under the ADA, an employer is required to provide a reasonable accommodation that will enable the employee with a disability to work, unless it would create an undue hardship for the employer to do so. The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (“EEOC”) provides guidelines and policies to assist both the employee and the employer in instituting accommodations, including temporary leave.
Pregnancy Discrimination Act
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”) also protects pregnant women’s rights. In essence, the PDA prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of pregnancy. Namely, if certain accommodations, such as a flexible schedule, reduced hours, or light duty, are provided to non-pregnant employees, they must also be provided to pregnant employees. Similarly, a pregnant employee cannot be forced to take leave if she is able to work.
Family And Medical Leave Act
The Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) provides eligible employees with 12 weeks of leave relating to pregnancy. Additional time may also be allowed under the ADA, if a mental or physical impairment is applicable. The employee is also entitled to return after leave to the same or substantially equivalent position.
Recent Pregnancy Discrimination Federal Case Decided By The United States Supreme Court
In a recently decided United States Supreme Court case, Young v. UPS, __ U.S. __, 135 S. Ct. 1338 (2015), a female UPS delivery driver, Young, became pregnant. Her doctor restricted her from lifting more than twenty pounds in her first twenty weeks of pregnancy and ten pounds thereafter. UPS told Young that she could not continue working while under the lifting restriction because her job required her to lift more than 70 pounds. Young was placed on leave without pay, and effectively lost her health insurance coverage. Young brought suit under the PDA, claiming that UPS’s failure to accommodate her was unlawful pregnancy discrimination where UPS provided accommodations to three other groups of employees:
- Employees who lost or no longer had their Department of Transportation certifications;
- Employees who were disabled within the meaning of the ADA; and
- Employees who were injured on the job.
She further argued that the PDA amended Title VII in 1978 to ensure and clarify that discrimination on the basis of sex includes discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. The PDA also provides that “women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes . . . as other person not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work . . .”
The Supreme Court held in this case that the standard courts must apply when a plaintiff brings a disparate treatment claim of intentional discrimination under this clause of the PDA by showing that:
- She was pregnant;
- She requested an accommodation;
- Her request was denied; and
- The employer accommodated others “similar in their ability or inability to work.”
The PDA does not “require the plaintiff to show that those whom the employer favored and those whom the employer disfavored were similar in all but the protected ways.” Thus, if the employer is willing to accommodate other employees, it must also do the same for pregnant employees.
If you feel that your rights are being violated or you want to make sure that your business is in compliance with both state and federal laws, please contact our knowledgeable California pregnancy discrimination attorney with Schwartz Law, P.C. at (888) 7300-0529 to schedule a consultation.