Employers in Pennsylvania and around the country with a workforce of 15 or more may face significant penalties if they discriminate directly against pregnant workers or allow discrimination or harassment against them to go unpunished. Federal laws that extend rights to pregnant workers include the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. These rights may also be protected by state and local laws as well.
Employers are prohibited under the PDA from discriminating against their workers because they are, were or may become pregnant, they have a pregnancy-related medical condition or have had or are considering having an abortion. Examples of discrimination include firing, demoting or refusing to hire a pregnant woman as well as overlooking them for promotion or assigning them lesser tasks. While employers may reassign pregnant workers when their condition jeopardizes workplace safety, they cannot make such decisions purely to protect the woman or her unborn child.
Federal law also requires employers to take action when pregnant workers report that they have been harassed, and they may are also be required to make reasonable accommodations for them. These could include adjusting their work or break schedules, allowing them to sit or stand and providing them with ergonomically designed furniture or equipment.
Pregnant workers are sometimes reluctant to come forward and make claims of harassment or workplace discrimination, but remaining silent can severely limit their legal options. Employment law attorneys may tell their clients that legal recourse may not be possible if a claim is not filed in a timely manner with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. They could also reassure pregnant workers that their employers may face sanctions if they take retaliatory action once a claim has been filed.