Pregnancy and Penalty: Gender Discrimination at Work
At a federal level, expectant parents are entitled to protection against unequal treatment, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, denial of benefits and lack of accommodation. Employees are entitled to protection from employers seeking to justify a layoff after learning of a pregnancy.
Pregnant workers are legally entitled to:
- Equal treatment: The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) require employers to treat employees fairly when extending the terms, conditions and privileges of employment. Employers cannot discriminate, harass or retaliate against workers on the basis of gender, pregnancy, childbirth, miscarriage, abortion or birth-related medical decisions.
- Reasonable accommodation: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to accommodate the reasonable needs of expectant mothers by granting a temporary reprieve from heavy lifting duties or other tasks that could harm the child.
- Unpaid leave of absence and access to benefits: The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) grants female workers and wives of male workers the same access to medical benefits during their pregnancy. Employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave for childbirth.
It is unclear whether the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 (FCRA) extends the same protections as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the PDA. Florida courts are divided on the issue. Some district courts reason that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the PDA preempt the FCRA when federal legislation provides more protection than state law does. Other district courts remove the case for failure to state a cause of action.
The legal controversy over this issue in Florida is why it is vital to retain a pregnancy discrimination lawyer who is licensed at the state and federal levels.