If your company has 15 or more employees, it is probably covered by the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, or PDA. If so, it is prohibited from treating women, whether applicants or employees, unfavorably due to pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition.
That means unfavorable treatment in any aspect of employment is prohibited, such as hiring, pay, assignments and promotions, training, benefits, layoffs and termination. It is also illegal to harass you based on your pregnancy, childbirth or related medical condition, if that harassment creates a hostile work environment or an adverse employment action.
Nevertheless, it remains relatively common for women to experience adverse job decisions based on their pregnancies. For example, an otherwise qualified job applicant may be illegally turned down because she is pregnant. Or, a pregnant employee may be denied temporary disability benefits that would be given to an employee with another kind of temporary disability.
Temporary disability and reasonable accommodations
According to the EEOC, pregnancy-related disabling conditions should be treated like other types of temporarily disabling conditions. That means that if you can’t work due to a medical condition related to your pregnancy or childbirth, your employer must provide reasonable accommodations for your condition just as it would for a person with another type of disabling medical issue.
For example, if your doctor said you can no longer lift heavy loads, your employer might be required to provide you with light duty or an alternative assignment that does not require heavy lifting. Your employer doesn’t have to give you exactly the accommodation you ask for, but it must provide one that works, as long as doing so would not create undue hardship for the company.
Another type of accommodation your employer may be required to give is unpaid leave, if it provides such leave to other people with temporarily disabling conditions.
You should also know that the Family and Medical Leave Act provides most employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave upon becoming a new parent. To qualify, your employer must have 50 or more employees, unless it is a public agency, elementary school or secondary school.
Can I express milk in the workplace?
Generally, yes. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“PPACA”) is part of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which applies to most U.S. workplaces with 50 or more employees.
The PPACA requires employers to provide reasonable break times during which you can express milk as often as necessary. Moreover, your employer may be required to provide a private place, besides a bathroom, in which to express milk.
If you have questions about pregnancy discrimination or related issues, contact an experienced employment law attorney.