There are both state and federal employment laws to protect California employees from pregnancy discrimination. However, even with these laws in place, this type of workplace discriminationcontinues to be a problem in California and the country. In fact, according the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), pregnancy discrimination is one of the most common forms of discrimination lawsuits, second only to disability. EEOC records reveal that a total of nearly 3,500 charges were filed with the EEOC for pregnancy discrimination in fiscal year 2016. Subsequently, pregnancy discrimination remains a focus in EEOC's 2017-2021 strategic enforcement plan. And it will undoubtedly remain a hot topic throughout the country, especially as President Trump pushes for six weeks of paid maternity and paternity leave in his proposed budget.
Pregnancy Discrimination – Federal and State Laws
Pregnancy discrimination involves treating a woman (an applicant or employee) unfavorably because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth. Below we cover the various federal and state laws designed to protect employees from this form of workplace discrimination.
Pregnancy Discrimination Act
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Essentially, the Act prohibits employers from treating a pregnant woman in an unfavorable way. It explicitly forbids discrimination based on pregnancy when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, such as leave and health insurance, and any other term or condition of employment.
American with Disabilities Act
Pregnancy itself is not considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because being pregnant is not a physiological disorder. However, impairments resulting from pregnancy (for example, gestational diabetes or preeclampsia, a condition characterized by pregnancy-induced hypertension and protein in the urine) may be classified as disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). An employer may have to provide a reasonable accommodation (such as leave or modifications that enable an employee to perform her job) for a disability related to pregnancy, absent undue hardship (significant difficulty or expense). Furthermore, under California law, employers must also provide up to four months disability leave for women who are disabled due to a pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. For more information about the ADA, see http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/disability.cfm.
Family and Medical Leave Act
Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993, a new parent (including foster and adoptive parents) may be eligible for 12 weeks of leave (unpaid or paid if the employee has earned or accrued it) that may be used for care of the new child. To be eligible, the employee must have worked for the employer for 12 months prior to taking the leave and the employer must have a specified number of employees. For more information, visit http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs28.htm.
Fair Labor Standards Act
Nursing mothers may also have the right to express milk in the workplace under a provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division. Details of FLSA can be found here http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs73.htm.
California Family Rights Act
Lastly, California employees may also be entitled to additional leave under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) to bond with their babies, adopted children or even to care for a child with a serious health condition. California employers are not required to pay an employee during CFRA leave, although certain employers do so voluntarily.
California Employment Lawyers
Should you have questions about any of the federal or state laws described above, don't hesitate to contact Kingsley & Kingsley to speak with one of our experienced employment lawyers.