Pregnancy and the birth of your child should be a joyful time. But, workplace discrimination can turn pregnancy into a high-stress time, complicated by harassment, financial worries, and other problems. Both federal law and Ohio law provide some protection for pregnant workers. The most direct and powerful protection comes from the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA).
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What is the Pregnancy Discrimination Act?
The federal PDA is a 1978 amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The law expanded the prohibition on discrimination on the basis of sex by adding language that provides in part that:
The terms ‘because of sex’ or ‘on the basis of sex’ include, but are not limited to, because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions; and women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes…
Who is Protected by the PDA?
The Pregnancy Discriminal Act applies to employers with 15 employees or more. Women are protected from discrimination on the basis of:
- Medical conditions related to childbirth
A prospective employer can’t even ask you whether you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant as part of the interview or application process.
Employees and applicants are protected from discrimination:
- In the hiring process
- In job assignments and promotions
- In layoff or termination decisions
- In training
- In access to benefits
For example, an employer can’t select an employee for layoff or pass the employee over for promotion because she is pregnant and likely to be taking leave for childbirth soon. And, an employer must extend leave, medical insurance, and other benefits to the pregnant employee under the same terms as they would another employee.
Women are also protected from workplace harassment relating to pregnancy or childbirth, just as workers are protected from harassment on the basis of sex, race, religion, and other protected classifications.
What if Pregnancy or Childbirth Prevents Someone from Doing the Job?
Most women are able to work throughout their pregnancies, and the law prevents employers from discriminating against a pregnant woman or new mother who is able to perform the job. But, what happens if pregnancy complications prevent an employee from fulfilling all of her usual job duties, or the job itself presents some special risks for a pregnant woman?
The specific solution will depend on the job, the employee, and the exact restrictions involved. But, the general rule is that an employee who is unable to perform some job responsibilities due to pregnancy or childbirth-related conditions is entitled to the same treatment as any other employee who was facing temporary disability or restrictions.
That may mean:
- Accommodating the employee with changes such as allowing more frequent breaks or allowing the employee to sit down while working
- Honoring medical restrictions, such as lifting limits
- Offering the same leave options that would be available to an employee facing another type of temporary disability, such as unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or other leave offered by the employer
An expert tip from Doug Mann
If a pregnancy-related condition such as gestational diabetes or pregnancy-related hypertension causes temporary disability, the employee may also be protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In addition to providing protection against discrimination, the ADA requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for disabled workers.
Ohio Law and Pregnancy Discrimination
Ohio law provides some protections that are similar to or overlap with federal law. But, there’s one important distinction. The federal PDA applies only to employers with 15 or more employees, and the federal FMLA applies only to employers with 50 or more employees. Ohio civil rights law applies to any business with four or more employees.
That’s important, because about 700,000 people in Ohio work for businesses with 20 employees or fewer, and hundreds of thousands of others work for companies with more than 20 but fewer than 50 workers. Nearly half of those employees are women.
Fighting Pregnancy Discrimination in Ohio
If you’ve been fired, had your hours cut, been denied a promotion, been discriminated against in employment, been harassed at work, or otherwise been discriminated against due to pregnancy or pregnancy/childbirth-related conditions, both state and federal law protect you.
Depending on the circumstances, you may have a variety of options, including:
- Filing a charge with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission
- Filing a charge with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
- Filing a civil lawsuit (which will typically require first filing a charge with the EEOC)
Depending on the size of your company, the type of discrimination you’ve faced, your medical condition, and other variables, your employer may be in violation of any or all of the following statutes:
- The Ohio Civil Rights Act of 1959
- The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act
- The federal Americans with Disabilities Act
- The federal Family Medical Leave Act
Remedies for Pregnancy Discrimination in Ohio
Depending on the statute or statutes that have been violated, the remedies for pregnancy-related discrimination may include:
- Reinstatement to a job you’ve been terminated from
- Back pay
- Compensation for actual damages suffered
The employer may also be required to pay your attorney’s fees and certain costs associated with bringing your claim. And, in some circumstances, punitive damages may be available.
Proving Your Pregnancy Discrimination Claim
Some types of discrimination are relatively straightforward. For example, if an employer extends short-term disability leave to employees who are ill or have been injured, but refuses the same leave for a pregnancy-related condition, the discrimination may be fairly clear. Others, such as discrimination in choosing an employee for promotion, may be more difficult to prove, since many variables will be considered in promoting an employee.
The best way to determine the right approach for your situation is to talk with an experienced Ohio employment discrimination attorney as soon as possible. The attorneys at Dyer, Garofalo, Mann & Schultz have extensive experience in helping victims of employment discrimination in all forms. We understand how important it is for you to have accurate information about your rights and options. So, we offer free consultations to Ohio employees.
If an EEOC charge is required before filing a lawsuit–which is the case in most employment discrimination cases–your time to take action is very limited. It’s in your best interest to get the information you need right now. Just call 937-222-2222 or fill out the contact form on this site to schedule your free consultation.