Pregnant employees must receive same treatment as injured staff

While the enactment of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 was supposed to provide employers with clear direction as to how to treat pregnant workers and those with pregnancy-related conditions, the introduction of subsequent laws and agency guidance have only muddied the waters. In fact, just this summer – and months before the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear a case involving allegations of pregnancy discrimination – the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued new guidelines saying that pregnancy-related conditions can be considered disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Labor and employment attorney Courtney Bru was interviewed by The Oklahoman about the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which is an amendment to Title VII, and other laws affecting pregnant workers. She said the PDA covers all stages of pregnancy and also clearly prohibits discrimination against applicants or employees because of contraceptive use, potential or intended pregnancies, receipt of fertility treatments, past pregnancies, or abortions. In addition, while the PDA requires employers to treat pregnant workers and those with pregnancy-related conditions the same as those who have health conditions that leave them similarly unable to work, the law does not require them to provide special treatment.

The Act also does not require employers to provide maternity leave. “And although some states’ laws require it, there are no such laws here in Oklahoma,” said Bru. “But there are a variety of other state and federal laws that may require employers to provide leave for pregnant employees – including the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.”