According to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, women who are pregnant or who are affected by related conditions must receive the same treatment as nonpregnant employees. Discrimination due to childbirth, pregnancy, or related physical conditions is against the law.
When job applicants and employees are treated differently because they are pregnant, the employer is breaking the law. Some illegal discriminatory actions include refusing to hire an applicant because she is pregnant, demoting or firing a pregnant worker, failing to give an employee a similar job when she returns from maternity leave, and treating a pregnant worker any differently than other worker that is temporarily disabled. Pregnancy can be considered a temporary disability in the case of doctor-ordered bed rest, acute morning sickness, and recovery after childbirth.
Pregnant workers must be allowed to work as long as they can perform the tasks of their jobs. They must also be allowed to return to work as soon as they are able to. Employers may not have regulations in place that force employees to take a certain amount of time off after childbirth. If a pregnant worker takes time off due to pregnancy-related health concerns, her employer cannot force her to stay on leave until after the baby’s birth.
Tests and Procedures to Determine Ability to Work
An employer may not require pregnant workers to take special tests or perform procedures to determine whether they are capable of performing their jobs. Employers may ask employees to take the same tests that other employees are required to take. If a pregnant worker is unable to perform her job tasks temporarily due to her condition, her employer must make the same allowances he or she would make for other temporarily disabled workers. For example, the worker could be reassigned to alternative tasks, have her workload modified, or take disability leave.
Employers must provide health insurance that covers pregnancy-related conditions, if they provide insurance for other healthcare needs. Expenses related to pregnancy and childbirth should be covered in the same manner as other medical conditions, as well, with the exception of abortions. Abortions do not need to be covered unless they are performed to protect the mother’s life. Copays, deductibles, and other insurance expenses for pregnancy-related conditions must be the same as for other medical procedures. Spouses of male employees and spouses of female employees must have equal healthcare benefits.
If any other benefits are provided to workers for medical conditions, these same benefits must be provided for pregnancy. For example, employers must provide the same vacation benefits, seniority calculations, pay increases, temporary disability benefits, and accrual of leave. Any of the pregnancy-related benefits must be offered whether a woman is married or single.
Education Is Key
Employers can minimize pregnancy discrimination by educating their management teams about the laws regarding discriminatory actions. They can also cut back on complaints by treating all applicants and employees equally. For example, they can ask the same questions of all applicants at job interviews, keep detailed records of performance reviews and disciplinary actions, and share these records with the employees in a timely manner.
Pregnancy Fairness Benefits Businesses
Not only is antidiscrimination the law, it also benefits the employers. When women suffer unfair labor practices due to their pregnancies, it impacts morale and leads to high turnover rates. When employers treat pregnant workers fairly, they retain more employees, increase productivity, and reduce training costs. Poor morale and excessive turnover can be costly to a company on many levels. Discriminating against pregnant workers or job applicants is against the law. In order for employers to minimize the risk of disparate treatment, they should become knowledgeable about the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and train their management team on the fine points of the law. Click to view more Human Resources
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