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Understanding the Pregnancy Discrimination Act

For New Yorkers finding out that they are pregnant, it is an exciting time. It means starting or expanding a family. But, it also means adapting one's life around the charges that occur during the pregnancy. It might be difficult to work or continue certain job tasks because of the normal symptoms of pregnancy.

However, employers cannot change the way they treat their employee just because she is pregnant. Even more so, if a woman develops a medical condition because of her pregnancy or has a high-risk pregnancy, an employer must accommodate her so she can continue to work.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act makes it unlawful to discriminate based on pregnancy with regards to any aspect of employment. This includes hiring, firing, pay, promotions, job assignments, layoffs, training, fringe benefits, leave, heath insurance and any other terms or conditions related to employment.

Additionally, if a pregnant woman is unable to perform her job duties because of a medical condition that is related to her pregnancy or childbirth, and employer must treat her like any other temporarily disabled employee. In these cases, an employer may have to provide the employee with light duties, alternative assignments, disability leave or other similar accommodations.

Harassment against a pregnant woman is also unlawful. This means any harassment stemming from a woman's pregnancy, childbirth or medical condition related to either pregnancy or childbirth. Harassment is deemed illegal if it occurs frequently or severely enough that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment. It also can occur when it causes an adverse employment decision such as the victim being fired or demoted.

Pregnancy is considered to be a joyful time. While it may not be the easiest time, it certainly should be one where no discrimination or harassment occurs. If an employee believes that she is being discriminated against based on her pregnancy, it is important for her to take the steps to protect herself and her rights. Filing an action could help hold an employer accountable, while also helping with the recovery of losses and damages arising from the situation.

Source: EEOC.gov, "Pregnancy Discrimination," accessed on April 7, 2018

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