The civil rights laws protect you from illegal discrimination, harassment, and retaliation at work. One of these laws, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA), specifically prohibits discrimination against employees because they are pregnant, intend to become pregnant, or have a pregnancy-related illness or disability.
Pregnancy Discrimination Is Against the Law
An employer may not refuse to hire you, refuse to promote you, fire you, or take any other adverse action against you just because of your pregnancy. Your employer may not use your pregnancy to demote you, force you to take a leave of absence, or decrease your hours.
Your employer cannot change your job responsibilities because of your pregnancy, even if your employer believes that the change would be in your best interest. For example, your employer may not exclude you from working in a warehouse, a laboratory, or around chemicals out of concern for your health. Only you and your doctor can decide whether you should continue working in those environments.
Accommodations for Pregnant Employees
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act requires employers to accommodate pregnant women as they would any employee who is temporarily disabled. This means that a pregnant woman is entitled to be treated the same as any other employee who has a short-term disability. For example, if a man who cannot lift heavy objects due to a temporary back injury is allowed to continue working on light duty, then a pregnant woman who cannot lift heavy objects during her pregnancy is also entitled to continue working on light duty.
If you have a pregnancy-related illness or disability, you may also have rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Returning to Work After a Pregnancy
Your legal protections continue after you give birth. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you and your spouse are entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for yourself and your child. And, once you return to work after pregnancy, your employer must restore you to the same position or a similar one.
That said, you are not required to stay out of work for any period of time after you give birth. You are entitled to decide for yourself when you are ready to return to work.
Finding a Pregnancy Discrimination Lawyer in New York
If you have been fired or otherwise discriminated against at work because of a pregnancy, then you should consult with an employment discrimination lawyer promptly to protect your rights. Do not delay. There are strict time limits and procedural requirements to assert your claims.
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