Unfortunately for women in today’s society, there are many obstacles in the workplace. Those with the dream of having a rewarding and challenging career while at the same time having a family, face special challenges. In the course of pregnancy, there can, of course, be many medical visits, complications, and then post-pregnancy leave. These challenges can tempt employers to simply terminate a pregnant employee rather than attempting to work with the employee or potential employee.
An employer cannot refuse to hire a woman because of her pregnancy-related condition as long as she is able to perform the major functions of her job. An employer cannot refuse to hire her because of its prejudices against pregnant workers or the prejudices of co-workers, clients or customers.
Pregnancy and Maternity Leave
An employer may not single out pregnancy-related conditions for special procedures to determine an employee's ability to work. However, an employer may use any procedure used to screen other employees' ability to work. For example, if an employer requires its employees to submit a doctor's statement concerning their inability to work before granting leave or paying sick benefits, the employer may require employees affected by pregnancy-related conditions to submit such statements.
If an employee is temporarily unable to perform her job due to pregnancy, the employer must treat her the same as any other temporarily disabled employee; for example, by providing modified tasks, alternative assignments, disability leave or leave without pay.
Pregnant employees must be permitted to work as long as they are able to perform their jobs. If an employee has been absent from work as a result of a pregnancy-related condition and recovers, her employer may not require her to remain on leave until the baby's birth. An employer may not have a rule which prohibits an employee from returning to work for a predetermined length of time after childbirth.
Employers must hold open a job for a pregnancy-related absence the same length of time jobs are held open for employees on sick or disability leave.
Any health insurance provided by an employer must cover expenses for pregnancy-related conditions on the same basis as costs for other medical conditions. Health insurance for expenses arising from abortion is not required, except where the life of the mother is endangered.
Pregnancy-related expenses should be reimbursed exactly as those incurred for other medical conditions, whether payment is on a fixed basis or a percentage of reasonable and customary charge basis.
The amounts payable by the insurance provider can be limited only to the same extent as costs for other conditions. No additional, increased or larger deductible can be imposed.
Employers must provide the same level of health benefits for females spouses of male or female employees as they do for male spouses of female or male employees.
Pregnancy-related benefits cannot be limited to married employees. In an all-female workforce or job classification, benefits must be provided for pregnancy-related conditions if benefits are provided for other medical conditions.
If an employer provides any benefits to workers on leave, the employer must provide the same benefits for those on leave for pregnancy-related conditions.
Employees with pregnancy-related disabilities must be treated the same as other temporarily disabled employees for accrual and crediting of seniority, vacation calculation, pay increases, and temporary disability benefits.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act
The United States Congress acted to remedy the issue and passed The Pregnancy Discrimination Act, this amended Title VII to make it illegal to discriminate against a woman because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth. The law also makes it illegal to retaliate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.
In 1997 the Louisiana Legislature re-organized most of the employment discrimination statutes into one consolidated location at La R.S. 32:301 et. seq. This Louisiana statute mirrors the federal law fairly closely.
Therefore, under both State and Federal law a victim has a remedy that can include: back pay, benefits, reinstatement, attorney’s fees, court costs, and damages.
If you feel you have been a victim of discrimination or unlawful employment practices, do not hesitate. Many companies have teams of lawyers looking out for their interests, you need the experienced and dedicated team of paralegals, attorneys, and investigators, to assist you. The sooner you get a lawyer involved on your behalf the better your chances of a positive outcome.