Pregnancy discrimination: Your rights when pregnant on the job

Pregnant women working for certain employers can receive protection from discrimination under federal law through the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. This act is an amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 under Title VII. It specifically protects pregnant women from any kind of discrimination related to childbirth, pregnancy and associated medical conditions.

By virtue of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, women must receive the same treatment and consideration as other employees regardless of their pregnancy status. Let's take a closer look at the protections pregnant women receive.

Maternity leave and pregnancy leave

Employers must provide pregnant women the ability to take leave from their jobs -- for pregnancy and other related health concerns and to care for their newborn babies -- without fear of losing their jobs when it's time to return to work. The employer may, however, require the pregnant woman to submit a doctor's note or proof of various exams to prove his or her need to take requested time off.

Employers must treat pregnant women who cannot perform their job duties due to pregnancy the same as they would treat employees suffering from other kinds temporarily debilitating medical conditions. For example, employers may need to provide disability leave, leave without pay, alternative job assignments, modified job tasks and other accommodations.

Health insurance benefits

Employers need to provide health insurance that covers expenses related to pregnancy for their employees. The insurance must reimburse expenses caused by pregnancy in the same way as it reimburses other kinds of medical expenses. However, if the life of the mother is not in danger, employers do not need to offer insurance that covers the cost of abortion.

Hiring practices

Employers may not discriminate against pregnant women when hiring so long as the health conditions related to pregnancy do not interfere with the woman's ability to carry out the functions of the particular job. Employers may not deny a woman work on the basis of the prejudiced opinions and/or beliefs about pregnant women.

Understand your rights as a pregnant employee

Unfortunately, not all pregnant women will be protected under federal law, as the law only applies to employers with 15 or more employees on staff. That said, Arizona state laws may offer many pregnant women similar protections. If you're experiencing pregnancy-related discrimination at your Arizona workplace, make sure that you fully understand your legal rights and options.

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