The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) amended Title VII to include pregnancy discrimination as a subset of sex discrimination, making discrimination based pm the following forms of illegal sex discrimination:
The PDA’s broad coverage was intended to make it clear that employers, including to federal agencies, should not base decisions on whether a woman may have, is having, or had children, even if the agency believes it is acting to protect a pregnant woman. The PDA allows women to assume their own risks and decide what choices are best for themselves and their families. The pivotal question is whether the employer denied an employee a term, benefit, or privilege of employment on the basis of the employee’s pregnancy status as opposed to whether the employer intended to cause harm to the pregnant worker in denying them a term, benefit, or privilege of employment.
Under the PDA, there is no need to prove malice to prove a claim of pregnancy discrimination. Your agency can still be liable for pregnancy discrimination even if the agency acted with the intention to make things easier for a pregnant woman or woman with young children. In the matter of Roxanne C. v. Dep’t of Defense, EEOC Appeal No. 0120142863 (2016), where the Federal Practice Group represented the Appellant, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reversed the initial decision in favor the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and found direct evidence of pregnancy discrimination. The EEOC held that however well-intentioned, DIA’s refusal to allow the complainant to participate in training because it fell within the last two weeks of the employee’s pregnancy and could create risk for the mother and baby was rooted in stereotypes and assumptions about a pregnant worker’s job capabilities and constituted unlawful pregnancy discrimination.
More recently, President Biden signed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act which codifies and clarifies the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Young v. United Parcel Service Inc., 575 U.S. 206 (2015), which held that employers making reasonable accommodations for other similarly situated workers must also provide pregnant workers with reasonable accommodation. While it was clearly the Supreme Court’s intent in Young to do away with decisions that only women with complicated pregnancies or underlying disabilities, etc., could get accommodation, the decision resulted in some bizarre outcomes, like pregnant women being denied accommodation because of a lack of a non-pregnant comparator. The new law requires employers, including federal agencies, to reasonably accommodate the known limitations related to pregnancy and childbirth and prohibits agencies from requiring an employee to take leave if another reasonable accommodation can be provided. The law also prohibits agencies from taking adverse actions against any employee for requesting reasonable accommodation.
Additionally, President Biden signed the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act which requires employers, including federal agencies, to provide a reasonable break time to express breast milk for 1 year after a child’s birth and a private place other than a bathroom to express milk.
If you have experienced pregnancy discrimination at your workplace, it is important to have a legal professional on your side who can guide you through the EEO complaint process to ensure your claim is properly handled.
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