Thirty years ago, Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, but clearly not everyone has gotten the word. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reported that there were 5,797 charges of pregnancy discrimination last year. They also report there has been a 15 percent increase in pregnancy discrimination over the last 10 years.
It is Illegal to Discriminate Against a Pregnant Women
In a recent MSNBC story on pregnancy discrimination, general counsel of the EEOC, David Lopez, commented that “A few employers have forgotten, or never learned, that it’s against the law to discriminate against women because of pregnancy.”
He pointed to increased enforcement activity by the EEOC and mentioned a 1.6 million dollar settlement from one employer that had systematically engaged in pregnancy discrimination across the country.
Education is Important
Much pregnancy discrimination occurs because many businesses fail to understand the law and how the requirements affect them. Many employers, managers and supervisors are more interested in the work being completed, and fail to grasp that they may not be able to fire an employee because they are pregnant.
Small businesses should speak with an employment law attorney to develop policies and training to ensure compliance, and employees should speak with an employment law attorney if they feel they are the subject of discrimination.
Employees may also be eligible for Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). If you have worked for 12 months and your employer is subject to the FMLA, you can use 12 weeks of FMLA leave for the birth of your child and other pregnancy related issues.
If you are a father, you too can use FMLA to care for your child or wife after a pregnancy.
Minnesota’s Anti-Pregnancy Discrimination Law
In addition to the federal discrimination law, Minnesota has the Minnesota Parenting Leave Law. This law gives employees of covered employers the right to take up to six weeks of unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child.
The law protects employees from retaliation for requesting or taking the leave and requires that employers make available healthcare insurance for the employees. The employer need not pay for the health insurance.