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Pregnancy Discrimination: Workplace Situations

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) 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.

Pregnancy Discrimination & Temporary Disability

If a woman is temporarily unable to perform her job due to a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth, the employer or other covered entity must treat her in the same way as it treats any other temporarily disabled employee. For example, the employer may have to provide light duty, alternative assignments, disability leave, or unpaid leave to pregnant employees if it does so for other temporarily disabled employees.

Additionally, impairments resulting from pregnancy (for example, gestational diabetes or preeclampsia, a condition characterized by pregnancy-induced hypertension and protein in the urine) may be 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).  The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 makes it much easier to show that a medical condition is a covered disability.  For more information about the ADA, see  For information about the ADA Amendments Act, see

Pregnancy Discrimination & Harassment

It is unlawful to harass a woman because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth. Harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted). The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.

Pregnancy, Maternity & Parental Leave

Under the PDA, an employer that allows temporarily disabled employees to take disability leave or leave without pay, must allow an employee who is temporarily disabled due to pregnancy to do the same.

An employer may not single out pregnancy-related conditions for special procedures to determine an employee’s ability to work. However, if an employer requires its employees to submit a doctor’s statement concerning their ability to work before granting leave or paying sick benefits, the employer may require employees affected by pregnancy-related conditions to submit such statements.

Further, 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.  See

Pregnancy & Workplace Laws

Pregnant employees may have additional rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which is enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor.  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.  See

For more information about the Family Medical Leave Act or break time for nursing mothers, go to, or call 202-693-0051 or 1-866-487-9243 (voice), 202-693-7755 (TTY)

From the US Department of Equal Employment Opportunity

Raising Expectations in the Workplace

Perhaps you are a small business owner committed to creating a family-friendly workplace. You know that an investment in your employees is an investment in the future of your business.


Maybe you are a specialist in human resources. You know how much it costs to hire and train new employees. When you have someone who is great at her job, you want to keep her.

Maybe you are a prospective employee considering the best match for you. Or you are an employee who wants to better advocate for yourself or others.

What affordable solutions can you bring to your place of employment? If employees can work from home, you know it will save on company expenses. And with today’s technology, this scenario is possible in many fields. You can help the employer and employee make telecommuting a win-win situation.

Obviously, Fortune 500 companies and other large employers usually offer many more benefits than small ones. But medium-sized companies and small employers can and should be supportive.

Feminists for Life’s Pregnancy Resource SurveySM helps students and administrators evaluate how well colleges and universities meet the needs of pregnant and parenting students, birthmothers and their own employees.

In 2011, FFL introduced a similar measurement tool to the workplace.

Start by reading the articles in this section of our website, and then take FFL’s Workplace Inventory to be sure your workplace has covered the basics. Stretch to put your pro-woman, pro-family beliefs into practice. Go to your boss with proposals, including ways you can help make your ideas work for the business as well as for caregivers. Or if you are the boss, go to your employees for ideas and be open to solutions that come to you.

We love our work, but we don’t live to work. We work to live. Our families are the priority, and it’s a constant balancing act. FFL is raising expectations, and with your support and active participation, we are doing our best to exceed them.

Because Women Deserve Better,

Serrin M. Foster


Feminists for Life of America

• Avoiding the Parent Trap: Protecting Yourself from Pregnancy Discrimination

• Understanding the Family and Medical Leave Act

• Finding a Place for Adoption 

• Keeping Mommy on the Tenure Track

• Shifting the Balance: Kellogg’s Six-Hour Workday

• Dad’s Glass Ceiling

• Not Your Father’s 9-5

• Taking Inventory: How Supportive is Your Workplace?

• FFL’s Workplace Inventory