What Does Pregnancy Discrimination Look Like? - May 2020

One common human condition that disproportionately affects women is pregnancy and pregnancy discrimination. The Civil Rights Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibit discrimination by employers on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions. These federal-level laws apply to employers with 15 or more employees. New York’s Human Rights Law extends this protection to businesses with 4 or more employees.

Women who are pregnant, or dealing with pregnancy-related medical conditions, must be treated similarly to other applicants and employees. This anti-discrimination requirement impacts the hiring process, employee accommodations, leave, and health insurance.


Before pregnancy becomes obvious, and even afterwards, an employer cannot refuse to hire a pregnant woman simply due to her pregnancy. Employers should instead look at how that person will be able to fill the role long term. It is unlawful for Pregnancy-related conditions to be singled out when determining an employee’s ability to fill a particular role.


A common complication with pregnancy is than an employee is temporarily unable to perform portions of her job. In these cases, the employers must respond as they would to any employee with a disability and look for ways to accommodate the pregnant employee. This may mean that tasks are modified, the employee is moved to a temporary alternate assignment, or that the employee is able to take disability leave. However, as long as a pregnant employee is able to work and perform her job, she must be permitted to work.


If the employee is requesting leave before her due date, an employer can require that the pregnant employee submit a doctor’s note regarding her current condition and limitations before granting leave, so long as this is the employer’s procedure for non-pregnancy-related leave requests.

If the pregnancy results in a temporary condition from which the employee recovers, the business cannot force her to take leave until the birth. The employee may return to work when she is ready. Further, businesses cannot have a rule on how long an employee must stay out after birth before returning to work. Instead, this decision is made by the employee and the business is required to hold her job the same length of time that it would hold open a job for a sick employee or one on another type of disability leave.

Health Insurance

Employees who are entitled to health insurance must be provided insurance using the same basis for cost as any other medical condition. Further, medical expenses related to pregnancy should be reimbursed on the same system as non-pregnancy-related charges. Health insurance, whether provided through a third-party provider or a self-insured company, cannot discriminate against pregnant women and pregnancy-related illness or complications. If employee medical insurance covers spouses, then female spouses must be provided the same level of coverage as male spouses.

Some employers provide additional fringe benefits for pregnancy and its related conditions or other types of disabilities. These benefits cannot be limited only to married employees and disability benefits must be extended to pregnant employees in the same way as they are extended for other types of disabilities.

Also, employers cannot retaliate against a person who complains of discriminatory treatment of a pregnant individual, who files a charge against an employer, or who otherwise participates in an investigation related to pregnancy discrimination claims. If you think you’ve been subjected to discrimination based on your pregnancy or pregnancy-related condition, reach out to the team of employment attorneys at Phillips & Associates. We are a big firm that defends employees, so you won’t be out gunned by the big firm your old employer hires to defend itself. For a free consultation, call the experienced New York discrimination and wrongful termination attorneys at Phillips & Associates today at (866) 229-9441.

At Phillips & Associates- We Level the Playing Field

Employees were, and for the most part still are, at a big disadvantage in the workplace. There is a dramatic power imbalance between employees and the companies for which they work. This power balance can intensify after experiencing sexual harassment or discrimination. The company/employer often hires a large law firm to represent it, while employees may have just lost their jobs, have very little money, and no one to help them understand their rights. At Phillips & Associates, we have the experience, staffing, and financial backing to keep the playing field level. People need to take a close look at the lawyer or law firm they want to hire and determine if that lawyer or firm has the funds, experience, and the resources to properly litigate their case.

Phillips & Associates is one of the largest plaintiffs’ only employment law firms in New York. The firm handles cases involving sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace including pregnancy, race, disability, religion, gender, nationality, criminal convictions, sexual orientation and other protected traits. Phillips & Associates also handles other areas of harassment at work such as retaliation and wrongful termination. Most recently Phillips & Associates was selected as one of the "10 Best Employment & Labor Law Firms" in New York" by the American Institute of Legal Counsel.

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