Pregnancy discrimination is typically considered the act of treating a female employee or applicant differently or unfavorably due to the fact that she is pregnant. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act was added as an amendment to the Civil Rights Act which was established in 1964 and was created to provide protection to women in the workplace who are pregnant, have given birth, or have a medical condition related to their pregnancy.
While some cases of pregnancy discrimination may be intentional, such as not promoting an employee because the employer believes motherhood will affect the employee’s ability to do her job, other types of discrimination may occur because the employer has made assumptions about how the pregnancy may affect the employee and misguidedly tries to help. As an example, the employer transfers the employee to another department because he or she believes that she is unable to perform the duties of her job because she is pregnant.
In reality, this could be considered a form of discrimination since an employer must treat a pregnant employee in the same manner that the individual would an employee who was temporarily disabled. If it is company policy to transfer temporarily disabled employees to other departments, the move would be considered legal. If company policy is generally to just modify the tasks of the individual until he or she is well again, however, then discrimination may have unintentionally occurred.
Although the Pregnancy Discrimination Act does provide protection, it is important to realize that is does not have to be followed by all employers, only to those who have 15 or more employees. The California Labor Law does provide some additional protection, however, and those who have been affected by pregnancy discrimination may find valuable information about this and protecting their rights on our website.