Pregnancy discrimination is all too common in the United States. In fact, pregnancy discrimination claims have been on the rise in recent years. If you are facing pregnancy discrimination, here are 10 things you should know about the law.
1. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA) under Title Vll of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed to protect employees from sex discrimination on the basis of pregnancy. The PDA was an amendment to Title Vll that made it illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee because of the employee’s pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.
2. The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) was created to ensure that eligible employees receive (unfortunately, unpaid) leave for a serious health condition—either their own or a family member’s. This includes pregnancy-related medical care. The FMLA, however, only applies to companies that have 50 or more employees. Additionally, the employee must have worked with that employer for at least 12 months with 1,250 hours worked.
3. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) requires that employers with 15 or more employees provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities. A woman with a pregnancy-related complication could be covered under the ADA, which means that her employer may have to make changes to her job that allow her to continue working—more frequent bathroom breaks, for example.
4. The PDA only covers companies with 15 or more employees. However, if you work for a company of less than 15 employees and are facing pregnancy discrimination, you may still have options. A state law or county ordinance may protect you. For example, the D.C. Human Rights Law, which protects pregnant employees, applies to all companies within the District, regardless of the number of employees. If you are in Arlington, Virginia, you are covered by the Arlington County Human Rights Code, which covers any employer with four or more employees.
5. It is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for making a formal or informal complaint. Sometimes employers will retaliate once an employee files a pregnancy discrimination claim or makes a complaint. Retaliation can come in many different forms but could include demotion, a decrease in job responsibilities, or being passed over for promotion. Retaliation is illegal and should your employer retaliate against you, you will have an additional claim.
6. If you believe you are being discriminated against, it is important to write everything down. Keeping a detailed journal of all incidences of discrimination is imperative for an employee looking to bring a discrimination claim. Additionally, it is wise to ensure that all communications with your employer are in writing or e-mail should they be needed as evidence.
7. You need to file with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or your state’s administrative agency first. Filing with the EEOC or your state’s administrative agency is the required first step if you want to bring a formal pregnancy discrimination lawsuit against your employer. Federal claims are filed with the EEOC, while state claims are filed with your state’s administrative agency.
8. You only have 180 to 300 days to file a claim. In most pregnancy discrimination cases, the statute of limitations is relatively short at only 180 days. This means that after 180 (or 300) days have gone by, you no longer have the right to bring a claim. According to the EEOC, “In general, you need to file a charge within 180 calendar days from the day the discrimination took place. The 180 calendar day filing deadline is extended to 300 calendar days if a state or local agency enforces a law that prohibits employment discrimination on the same basis.”
Federal employees typically have an even shorter window of 45 days in which to file a claim.
For these reasons, it is important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible to determine your rights, options, and filing window.
9. Title VII applies to men as well! Antidiscrimination laws like the FMLA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protect both women and men from caregiver and gender-based discrimination.
10. You don’t need smoking-gun evidence to win your case. Most cases lack a smoking gun (called “direct” evidence by courts) of discrimination, such as your boss e-mailing, “Wait, you’re pregnant? Then you’re fired!” But you may have strong circumstantial evidence. And that can be enough. For instance, you have stellar reviews for five years, then, for no good reason, you get terrible reviews after you announce your pregnancy to your boss.
To win, you need to prove four things with either direct or circumstantial evidence:
- you or your spouse were or are pregnant,
- you were qualified for the position,
- your employer took an “adverse job action” against you, including firing, demotion, or denial of a promotion, and
- there is a connection between your pregnancy and the adverse job action.
At Spiggle Law, we focus in pregnancy discrimination and protecting employees’ rights. Founder Tom Spiggle is so passionate about fighting pregnancy discrimination that he has even written a book, You’re Pregnant, You’re Fired, in an attempt to help mothers, fathers, and caregivers facing discrimination in the workplace.
If you believe you have been the victim of pregnancy discrimination and are considering filing a pregnancy discrimination claim, it is important that you speak with an experienced lawyer. Contact us today to set up an initial consultation.