Pregnancy Discrimination

The law forbids employers from discriminating against or harassing employees because of their pregnancies or conditions relating to childbirth.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (through Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964) and the Virginia Human Rights Act prohibit workplace discrimination based on pregnancy, lactation, or childbirth-related conditions. This means an employer is prohibited from declining to hire or promote a pregnant worker because of her condition as long as she can do the job. This also means an employer cannot refuse to hire or promote a pregnant woman based on stereotypes about pregnant workers, or because of any biases co-workers or customers may have against pregnant workers. These laws further prohibit pregnancy discrimination in all other aspects of employment, such as pay, job assignments, layoffs, promotions, training, benefits, firing, or any other terms or conditions of employment. 

Pregnancy-based harassment, such as a supervisor’s derogatory comments about one’s pregnancy or related conditions, can also be illegal if the harassment is so frequent or severe that it creates an abusive work environment.

The law also requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees’ pregnancies or childbirth-related conditions, unless the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer.

Reasonable accommodations for employees’ pregnancies or childbirth-related conditions may include:

  • More frequent or longer bathroom breaks;
  • Breaks to express breast milk;
  • Acquisition or modification of equipment or access to or modification of employee seating;
  • A modified work schedule;
  • Job restructuring;
  • Assistance with manual labor;
  • Access to a private location other than a bathroom for the expression of breast milk;
  • A temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position;
  • Light duty assignments; and/or
  • Leave to recover from childbirth.

Here are some examples of conduct that could be pregnancy discrimination:

  • An employer asks questions about your pregnancy in connection with an interview, then declines to hire or promote you because of your pregnancy;
  • Your employer fails to make reasonable accommodations for your pregnancy or childbirth-related medical conditions;
  • Your boss terminates you, at least in part because of your pregnancy or childbirth-related condition.

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