Is pregnancy discrimination the same as sex discrimination? Once upon a time, the highest court of the land may have answered “no” as a result of patriarchal prejudices trying to limit the scope of situations where marginalized groups were able to claim compensation. Nowadays, it may be said that pregnancy discrimination is more accurately considered gender discrimination, as the more inclusive category of birthing people also holds space for trans men and nonbinary people. In the face of these evolving considerations, understanding the history and significance of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 is all the more important. Keep reading to learn about pregnancy discrimination protections in the United States.
Be sure to get in touch with an Atlanta employment discrimination attorney after you’ve been discriminated against due to being pregnant. We’ll evaluate your case and fight hard for you if we believe that you experienced pregnancy discrimination.
The History of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978
In 1976, the United States Supreme Court decided General Electric Co. v. Gilbert, 429 U.S. 125 (1976). The Court advanced the argument, in that case, that discrimination based on whether someone was pregnant or not did not constitute cognizable sex discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 was passed as a direct response to that court decision.
Several decades later, in 2015, the Supreme Court had an opportunity to expand on the jurisprudential understanding of work accommodations required by the PDA. Young v. United Parcel Service, 575 U.S. 206 (2015) involved a UPS worker who had requested a 20-pound lifting limit and whose employer had sent home from work because they refused to accommodate any restriction on their 70-pound lifting requirement. By showing that other employees, except pregnant employees, routinely received lifting accommodations, the plaintiff convinced the Court to rule in favor of employees alleging employment discrimination.
How Does United States Law Use the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978?
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, also known by its initials PDA, prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating against pregnant people because of their pregnancy, childbirth, abortion decisions, or any other medical condition that results from pregnancy or childbirth. Pregnancy discrimination is understood to be the loss of a job, job offer, or job promotion due to pregnancy status, adverse actions such as being assigned a less desirable work schedule or given a pay cut, and harassment from co-workers, among other negative and damaging actions.
The PDA requires that pregnant workers receive the same accommodations and benefits as non-pregnant workers receive, particularly as pertains to the abilities and work limitations of non-pregnant workers. In addition to the PDA, twenty-three states, the District of Columbia, as well as four cities afford additional protections to pregnant workers.