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What Federal Laws Protect Against Pregnancy Discrimination – Part II

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The federal laws which prohibit pregnancy discrimination and provide for disability and parenting leaves are Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which includes the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, (see section 2000e(k) of the law for the specific language concerning pregnancy) and the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 Title VII covers many forms of discrimination you may encounter because of your sex in decisions about hiring, firing, work assignments, and conditions, promotions, benefits, training, retirement policy, and wages. In 1978, Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (P.D.A.) (see §2000e(k)) amending Title VII to clarify that discrimination based on pregnancy is a form of sex discrimination. Title VII prohibits employers from treating pregnant women or temporarily physically disabled new mothers differently from other temporarily sick, injured or disabled employees.

In 1993, Congress enacted the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA guarantees an employee, male or female, who has been working at least a year for a company with 50 or more employees the right to job-protected, 12-week, unpaid leave to recover from a serious medical condition — including pregnancy — or to care for a newborn, a newly adopted child, or a seriously ill child, parent or spouse. Under the FMLA, you have the right to take this 12-week unpaid leave every year, and to have your health benefits maintained during your leave. The FMLA also guarantees that at the end of the leave you will be given the same job you left or another job equivalent in pay, benefits and other terms and conditions. For more information about FMLA, see our page on family/medical leave.

Depending on the type of discrimination, pregnancy discrimination may violate Title VII, the Family and Medical Leave Act, or both laws. This also depends on whether an employee qualifies for protection under each law and whether the leave is involved. The laws of some states also make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of pregnancy, and some state laws have different requirements than Title VII or the FMLA for awarding pregnancy leave. For more information, please see our page on state pregnancy discrimination laws.

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