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Thursday, January 22, 2015


Take Three: Pregnancy Discrimination

Women now make up nearly half of the U.S. labor force. Three out of every four women entering the workforce will experience at least one pregnancy while employed. Every year, thousands of women file charges of pregnancy discrimination. Latifa Lyles, director of the Women's Bureau, answers three questions on pregnancy discrimination and what it means for the workforce.
What is pregnancy discrimination? Pregnancy discrimination occurs when an employer treats a job applicant or an employee unfavorably due to her pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition. It could involve refusing to hire or promote a qualified individual because she is pregnant, firing a woman because she missed a few days of work to give birth, or forcing a pregnant employee to take leave. Pregnancy discrimination is illegal, as is pregnancy-related harassment that creates a hostile or offensive work environment. Pregnancy discrimination negatively affects not just pregnant women and their families, but also employers, who may be cheating themselves by driving away skilled, qualified workers.

What resources do pregnant workers have? At the federal level, women are protected by laws like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Family and Medical Leave Act. Also, many states have enacted laws that provide women with additional protections against pregnancy discrimination.

Why are these protections necessary? Today, most women work during pregnancy, often into their third trimester. Laws prohibiting pregnancy discrimination are necessary because they ensure that women who want to work during pregnancy do so under the same conditions as non-pregnant employees. They also ensure that women who are not able to work due to a pregnancy-related disability are treated the same as non-pregnant workers who are similar in their inability to work. In turn, these laws ensure that the U.S. workforce is operating under the best possible conditions — those in which all workers have an equal opportunity to contribute their skills and experience.