According to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act 1964; Women who are pregnant must be treated by their employer in the same way as other employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work. Companies with 15 or more employees must treat pregnancy like any other form of short term disability.
If you apply for a job whilst you are pregnant an employer can not prohibit you from working if you are pregnant. Nothing prevents you to stay as long as you can perform your usual tasks. Your employer cannot discriminate against you with regards to promotion, pay or lay-offs.
Pregnant women are allowed to continue working as long as they are able to do the tasks related to their job. An employer cannot make you take maternity leave before your time, even if you had some time off sick due to a pregnancy related condition.
A pregnant woman must be treated in the same way as any person who is temporarily disabled through sickness or accident. If you require leave with or without pay, your job must be held open for you in the same way as a job would be held open for an employee who was off work because of sickness or injury.
Once a woman has become a parent, she is entitled to 12 weeks, maternity leave, unpaid or paid, as long as she has worked for her employer for 12 months before taking leave and her employer meets the specifications with regard to employees. You can see the specifications here. However, a woman might lose her job during Maternity Leave, if the company finds it necessary to downsize owing to an economic downturn. The employer must prove this though.
Ability to Work
If a pregnant woman is unable to do certain tasks because pregnancy makes this impossible, such as lifting heavy items or working with dangerous chemicals. Her employer must find her alternative work with lighter duties. It may well be that the employer is unable to do this and that a woman would therefore be given time off, with or without pay without any risk to her job.
What to Do if you are the Subject of Discrimination
If you feel that you have been discriminated against because of your pregnancy. The best thing to do is to keep a log of everything that happens to you within the workplace. Make sure you get things down on paper, or correspond by using email. Always keep a note of who was present and what was said. You should then file your complaint with the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Committee). The complaint will be notified to your present employers, but if you decide to look for another job, your new employers will not be told about the complaint. You must file a complaint with the EEOC before you file a lawsuit.
You must be careful to file your complaint with the EEOC within the allotted time. You have six months from the time the first discriminatory behaviour occurred. Some States have a Fair Employment Practice Agency (FEPA) and you can then file with the EEOC after 300 days, or 30 days after the agency confirms the charge has finished being processed, whichever comes first. You can read the guide to Pregnancy Discrimination in Employment here.
Don’t put up with discrimination. You can do something about it. If you have been dismissed, you may get your job back or receive back pay. You might also receive compensatory damages and have your legal fees paid.