It may surprise some employers, but illegal workplace discrimination includes discrimination based on childbirth, pregnancy and those related medical conditions. Indeed, this type of discrimination is considered sex discrimination.
Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act mandates that most employers provide reasonable accommodations to employees related to childbirth, pregnancy and those related medical conditions. Impairments related to pregnancy qualify as disability, even though a pregnancy itself does not so qualify, as long as the impairment substantially limits one or more major life activities or substantially limited major life activities in the past. A RA means modifying an employee policy, procedure or practice to facilitate the employee’s continued ability to work. This means that, if an employee has a pregnancy impairment, like an inability to lift heavy objects, the employer likely must allow for light or desk duty.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, adds additional workplace protections for pregnant employees. This means that these employees are protected from any adverse action as a result of the pregnancy, birth or a related medical condition. This includes, not hiring someone, firing them, demotions, pay reductions, negative job assignments, etc. Any adverse action can qualify as illegal sex discrimination against the employee.
What about someone’s ability or intention to have kids?
An Sherwood, Oregon, employee’s ability to have children can also not be the basis of an adverse action. This means that jobs that ban fertile women from working in certain areas because of potential exposure to something is illegal. An employer cannot, generally, justify an adverse action by fear for a fetus or continued fertility. Similarly, if an employee has stated they want to become pregnant, an adverse action cannot be taken based on that intent.
Does this mean employers cannot ask pregnancy-related questions?
No. Sherwood, Oregon, employers can ask, but the question can be used as evidence of an adverse action. For example, if a potential employer asks all women if they plan on having kids, and then does not hire a woman who answered in the affirmative, this can be proof of an adverse action (not being hired for a position).