Pregnancy Discrimination

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to illegalize discrimination against a woman because of childbirth, pregnancy, or a medical condition related to childbirth or pregnancy.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act forbids Retaliation in any aspect of employment including pay, promotion, layoff, fringe benefits, training, job assignment, hiring, firing and any other condition of employment.

Temporary Disability / Pregnancy Discrimination

If a female employee is temporarily unable to perform her job function due to a medical condition related to childbirth or pregnancy, then the employer must treat her as a temporarily disabled employee. Therefore, the employer might have to provide disability leave, modified tasks, unpaid leave, or alternative assignments. The person engaging in Pregnancy Discrimination may be a manager, supervisor, or a co-worker. The person engaging in Pregnancy Discrimination may also be a customer or client of the employer. In essence, the harasser need not be employed by the employer.

Under the Family Medical Leave Act; a new parent which includes adoptive parents and foster parents may be eligible for leave totaling 12 weeks.


While many women experience normal, healthy pregnancies, complications can arise, even in healthy women. There are a variety of complications that can occur during pregnancy, ranging in severity. Some complications that arise during pregnancy are extremely serious and can be potentially life threatening to the mother, child or both. Complications have varying symptoms and can affect on a woman’s productivity at work, cause her to leave work early unexpectedly on certain days, and/or affect her ability to remain working throughout her pregnancy. It is important for a pregnant woman to be aware of symptoms that point to complications, and feel comfortable discussing necessary changes or accommodations with her employer without fear of adverse employment action.

As amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibits discrimination against women because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to childbirth or pregnancy. For a full discussion regarding discrimination based on pregnancy or childbirth, please click the link provided. Additionally, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects pregnant women against discrimination. A medical condition or complication associated with a woman’s pregnancy can potentially be classified as a disability if it substantially limits one or more major life activities.

Common, less complications that can occur during a woman’s pregnancy include anemia, which causes tiredness and weakness, or shortness of breath; depression; gestational diabetes; and high blood pressure. More severe complications include hyperemesis gravidarum , characterized by persistent and severe nausea and vomiting; ectopic pregnancy, where the egg implants outside of the uterus, most commonly on a fallopian tube; fetal problems or health issues with the baby; miscarriage; placenta previa, where the placenta covers, either entirely or in part, the opening of the cervix, requiring bed rest and reduced activity; placental abruption, which occurs when the placenta separates from the uterine wall before delivery, depriving the baby of oxygen; preeclampsia or toxemia, which results in high blood pressure in the mother and problems with the mother’s kidneys and other organs, requiring bed rest – at home or in the hospital, and often, early delivery; and preterm labor, often requiring bed rest and/or early delivery.

It is often the case that women become pregnant during the course of existing employment. If and when unexpected complications arise, a woman may experience discrimination. Many factors play a role in workplace discrimination against women with pregnancy complications. An insensitive supervisor may not be understanding of the atypical symptoms an expectant mother experiences during her pregnancy. Additionally, a female supervisor may compare an employee’s pregnancy to her own, and fail to acknowledge complications, resulting in discriminatory conduct. There are many faces of discrimination including changes in responsibilities that effectuate a demotion without a change in title, failure to promote – possibly for fear of future complicated pregnancies, and

Women living on Long Island, or in the metro New York City area, including Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, the Bronx, and Manhattan who have experienced discrimination at work because of pregnancy complications should contact a New York disability attorney to fully assert their rights.

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