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Pregnancy Discrimination Information

In 2004, the Equal Opportunities Employment Commission received 4,512 complaints from women who were fired or passed over for a promotion after announcing they were pregnant - an increase of 33 percent since 1992.

Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978 as an amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It requires employers with 15 employees or more and who offer general medical disability benefits to their employees to extend disability benefits to pregnant employees. Employers must offer pregnant employees the same rights, time off, alternate work duties, and opportunity to return to work, as any other disabled employee. If your employer does not offer a disability plan, you may still qualify for state unemployment or temporary disability benefits. Contact your local unemployment office to find out if your state offers benefits and how to apply.

If you are unable to work due to physical problems, you and your doctor may decide that your pregnancy is partly or totally disabling. A disability related to pregnancy may be one of three types:

  • Due to the pregnancy itself. Reasons may include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, labor, and delivery.
  • Due to complications. These may include infection, bleeding, early labor, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease
  • Due to job exposures. Some disabilities may be linked to exposure to high levels of toxic substances at work.

Under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, if you are interviewing for a job, the interviewer cannot ask you if you are pregnant or if you plan to become pregnant in the future. They cannot refuse to hire you because you are pregnant - as long as you can perform the major functions of the job - and you must be allowed to work as long as you are able to perform your job. In addition, an employer cannot discriminate against you based on your marital status and benefits must be extended to both married and single employees.

The Family and Medical Leave Act, passed in 1993, gives pregnant women who are employed at companies with 50 or more people the right to take a combination of paid and unpaid leave equaling twelve weeks to care for a newborn. It also gives employees the right to take time off for medical problems (including those that are pregnancy-related) and to care for an ill family member. Employers must hold open a job for a pregnancy-related absence for the same length of time a job would be held open for another employee on sick or disability leave. Employers are also required to give a woman the same job or a job with equal pay and benefits when she returns from maternity leave. Pregnancy-related expenses should be reimbursed exactly as those incurred for other medical conditions. These are the minimum requirements established by law; your employer may have a more generous benefit plan.

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