I Work for a Small Company. Am I Still Protected Under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act?

Apr 17, 2017
By Peter Friedmann
Pregnancy discrimination lawyer

Your company must be very small to qualify for a total exemption from the major provisions of the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). The law applies to all employers that have the equivalent of 15 full-time employees on payroll. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “all employers” includes private companies, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, employment agencies, and labor unions.

The PDA offers important employment protections to women who become pregnant and give birth. It can also be applied on a case-by-case basis to cover parents who adopt young children or children with special needs. Anyone in central Ohio who thinks their employer has treated them unfairly while they were carrying a child or caring for a newborn child should request a confidential consultation with a pregnancy discrimination attorney in Columbus.

What the PDA Does

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act became law in 1978, when lawmakers thought it was necessary to clarify that prohibitions against sex and gender discrimination spelled out in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also applied to carrying a child and giving birth. Specifically, the PDA states that “women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes, including receipt of benefits under fringe benefit programs, as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work.”

In practical terms, the law makes it illegal to fire, reassign, demote, deny leave to, deny promotions and pay raises to, limit training opportunities for, or refuse to hire someone just because she is pregnant, dealing with a pregnancy complication, or recovering from giving birth. Additionally, a company or agency that offers insurance to employees is barred by the PDA from charging pregnant workers higher premiums or dropping coverage due to pregnancy or related complications. An employer can, however, legally refuse to include coverage of abortion services in its health plan.

Employee and job applicant protections under the PDA apply so long as the woman can complete all the essential components of her current or desired job.

Federal Antidiscrimination Laws Related to the PDA

Pregnant women and new mothers have additional employment protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Employers with 15 or more workers must comply with the ADA by making reasonable accommodations for staff members who have temporary or long-term physical or mental limitations. What counts as “reasonable” varies in each situation, but a PDA-related example may be allowing a pregnant woman whose job requires standing for long periods to take an extra 15-minute break while on shift. Employers are permitted to refuse requests for accommodations that completely change the essential duties of a job, that result in unfair treatment of other workers, or cost large amounts of money to implement.  You may hear this described as an “undue burden.”

Provisions of the FMLA allow pregnant women and new mothers who work at private companies with more than 50 employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period. Government agencies and educational institutions of any size must comply with FMLA.

The woman must follow the call-off procedure established by the employer when she takes FMLA leave.  She can take intermittent FMLA leave or continuous leave without being fired or otherwise retaliated against. This aspect of the PDA can be applied to adoptive parents because language in the FMLA specifically mentions taking unpaid leave as the new parent of an adoptee or foster child.

If you need advice and representation from a Columbus pregnancy discrimination lawyer, consider scheduling a free consultation with an attorney at The Friedmann Firm. You can connect with us by calling 614.610.9755 or completing this online contact form.