Pregnant employees and job applicants are protected by California Law and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 both in the hiring process and while on the job.
If an employee or former employee claims she has been discriminated against on the basis of your pregnancy – either overtly or through covert means – in applying for a job, being terminated or demoted at your job, seeking reasonable accommodations at work, or in seeking medical leave, they may be able to bring a successful pregnancy discrimination law claim for financial recovery and other forms of relief, including being restored to their job.
The employer’s defense team at LawPLA defends employers against unwarranted claims of discrimination by pregnant employees and job applicants in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas. We are here to listen to your situation, help you assess your legal options, and aggressively defend your legal interests in a pregnancy discrimination claim.
Employers May Not Discriminate Against Pregnant Workers
A California employer may not discriminate against workers and applicants on the basis of pregnancy. This is true in the hiring process as well as on the job, meaning you can’t demote, suspend, terminate, or subject an employee or applicant to other adverse employment decisions on the basis of their pregnancy. This also means you have to be careful about questions that you ask during the employment process. However, there are ways to get the information you want to obtain as a business or business owner without directly asking a question that directly violates the law.
You Cannot Fire an Employee Because of Pregnancy
As an employer, it’s important to be aware that you can’t fire employees because they are pregnant. Exceptions are rare, even when a job entails being exposed to toxic chemicals or lifting heavy objects.
Courts have ruled that decisions about the safety of the woman and fetus are up to the employee and her doctor, not her boss.
You Cannot Hire an Applicant Solely Because of Pregnancy or Plans on Becoming Pregnant
Employers can’t ask an applicant during a job interview about if she is currently pregnant if that leads to you not hiring the applicant — that is illegal.
It is also illegal to not hire someone because she might become pregnant. Additionally, an applicant is under no legal obligation to disclose the fact that she is pregnant to someone who is considering hiring her. However, again, it is possible to obtain this information without asking a question that directly violates the law.
You Can’t Demote Or Give Lower Pay Because an Employee is Pregnant
It’s illegal for you to use an employee’s pregnancy as an excuse to pay her less.
You also do not have the right to demote an employee because she takes maternity leave. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act and California Law entitles employees to return from maternity leave to a position equal to or higher than their previous role.
You Must Make Reasonable Accommodations For Pregnancy
If your employee has complications or is temporarily impaired because of her pregnancy, you must treat her the same as other workers with medical impairments.
If you have a policy in place that, for example, offers a light-duty assignment for a few months to a worker who injured his back, you must also provide “reasonable accommodations” to your pregnant employee over the course of her pregnancy.
Other examples of reasonable accommodations may include allowing her to sit on a stool rather than stand during her shift, changing her work schedule if she has severe morning sickness, or allowing her to keep a water bottle next to her workstation.
You Can’t Force if an Employee Can Perform Her Essential Duties
Even if it appears you are acting in the best interest of your employee — or protecting itself from liabilities – it’s illegal to move or reassign a pregnant woman or new parent to a less strenuous job or to cut her hours.
You also can’t limit work travel on the basis of pregnancy. An employee’s ability to travel is up to her and her doctor, not the employer.
In addition, you can’t base employment decisions on assumptions about a pregnant women’s capabilities or concerns about her health.
Pregnant Workers Have a Right To Medical Leave
As is the case with all workers at covered employers, pregnant workers have the right to medical leave under both California law and the federal Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). California law specifically states that pregnant workers have the right to take up to four months of unpaid medical leave for the following conditions related to pregnancy:
- Postnatal child care
- Prenatal care
- Postpartum depression
- Morning sickness
- Pregnancy-related complications
The four months do not have to all be taken at once. Employee’s also have the right to insurance coverage by their employer during this period, and the right to seek a comparable position and/or job tasks upon their return to the workplace.
Disability Law and Pregnancy Discrimination
Pregnancy may affect an employee’s ability to do some types of tasks on the job. However, as an employer you are required by federal disability law to make reasonable accommodations for a pregnant employee to continue working on the job. Such reasonable accommodations might include:
- Providing different tasks.
- Providing special equipment, e.g., a special chair or desk.
- Providing a different schedule to work around doctor’s visits or morning sickness.
Failure to provide reasonable accommodations could lead to an employment law claim for financial recovery.
No Harassment Allowed
Pregnant workers have a right to be free from harassment based on their pregnancy status and/or gender. Repeated harassing statements or other types of conducts based on an employee’s pregnancy status may provide a basis for them to bring a hostile work environment claim against you or your business.
You Can’t Fire an Employee Over Abortion
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act protects women from being discriminated against if they either had an abortion or considered having an abortion.
Employers can’t choose what an employee does with her body.
Speak with a Los Angeles Employer’s Defense Legal Team Today
If you have been targeted with a pregnancy discrimination claim, work with the employer’s defense team at LawPLA to assess the situation and understand the legal merits of the claim and what legal options for defense are available to you. We are here for you. Contact LawPLA today to schedule a consultation to discuss your potential defense against a pregnancy discrimination law claim.