A Brief Guide to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA)

default author image07.20.2017

Few things can bring as much excitement and joy to your life as learning that you are pregnant. For far too many women, however, that joy is quickly stifled when they begin experiencing discrimination from their employer. Fortunately, there are legal protections in place that can help to guarantee your rights in these situations – but you need to know what your rights are, and how to demand them. Specifically, learning about the Pregnancy Discrimination Act is a great way to understand your rights.

What is the PDA?

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act was originally passed in 1978, and is a part of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This act is designed to help protect the rights of the millions of women who may become pregnant at some point during their careers. It is a fairly extensive piece of legislation, which governs virtually all aspects of employment including hiring, promotions, pay, firing, disciplinary actions, and employment benefits. This act applies to all employers that have fifteen or more employees. Although smaller employers aren’t covered under this act, however, they can’t legally directly discriminate against pregnant women either.

What Rights Does it Protect?

The PDA offers many protections against discrimination, which pregnant women are often a victim of. These protections apply not only to women who are pregnant, but also those who may become pregnant. Some specific rights that are protected include:

  • Getting Fired – Employers may not terminate employment because you file a complaint against them for violating the PDA.
  • Promotions – You may not be bypassed for a promotion simply because you are pregnant, or may become pregnant.
  • Maternity Leave – Your employer must hold your job for you while you are on maternity leave for at least as long as they would for someone on sickness or disability leave.
  • Hiring – Employers may not refuse to hire you just because you are pregnant, as long as you are able to perform the required job duties.
  • Job Duties – You cannot be assigned job duties that are unsafe for you to perform while pregnant.
  • Other – This legislation offers protections against any type of discrimination due to pregnancy or fertility.

The following eligibility requirements are the minimum requirements required by state law. Many employers have their own policies that are more generous than what is strictly required, so while this article will provide an excellent starting point, you should reach out to your manager or HR department to get the specific policy from your company.

Hours Per Week & Years of Service

In order to qualify for paid family leave, employees need to be with the company for a set amount of time, and work a minimum number of hours per week. The breakdown is as follows:

  • Schedule of 20+ hours per week – Employees who have a regular work schedule of 20+ hours per week will qualify for paid family leave after they have been employed with the company for 26 weeks.
  • Schedule of less than 20 hours per week – Any employee who is scheduled for less than 20 hours per week (on average) will qualify for this benefit after 175 days worked.

Qualifying Events

In most cases, paid family leave is used after giving birth to a child. This is not, however, the only time that you can use this important benefit. Some additional situations where you can qualify for paid time off include:

  • Adoption or fostering a child
  • Caring for a close relative (spouse, child, parent, grandparent, etc.)
  • Active duty deployment (when a close relative has been notified that they will be called into active military duty)

These events don’t always qualify for full benefits. Depending on the situation, you may qualify for anything from simple protection for your job when you return, to full pay while you are gone. Talk with your HR representative to go over your specific benefits.

Get the Protection You Need

If you feel you are being treated unfairly by your employer, or potential employer, it is important to act fast. Contact attorney Susan Crumiller to discuss your situation and get the legal protection you need against any type of pregnancy-related discrimination in New York.