Pregnancy in the Workplace: Knowing the Law

With more and more women choosing to divide their time between working and motherhood, there is a greater likelihood of you interacting with a candidate or an employee who is pregnant, planning to be pregnant, or has just given birth. However, it is not uncommon for pregnant women to find themselves at the core of discrimination in the workplace and in the hiring process. Whether it is due to productivity or turnover concerns, some employers have consciously or unconsciously acted against pregnant women in the hiring process. However, doing so opens up the business or the staffing agency to costly and reputation-damaging employment practices liability claims.

Pregnancy-related discrimination is a topic that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) Strategic Employment Plan has named as one of six priorities from 2017 to 2021. With rising claims costs due to the length of time it takes for an investigation, it can take anywhere from 18-24 months and up to $300,000 for a claim resolution, according to Advisen

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1964

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1964 (PDA) ensures that pregnant individuals can’t have their health held against them. It means that employers must allow pregnant employees to work at their jobs as long as they can perform their jobs, according to Insurance Journal. Another thing that this law does is that it forbids an employers from discriminating against a new hire if they are pregnant. Under the PDA, employees can take a disability leave if they have just given birth, according to the EEOC. With the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993, they are allowed up to 12 weeks of paid maternity leave, thanks to enforcement by the U.S. Department of Labor. In the meantime, the employer must hold open a job for a pregnancy-related absence for as long as that person is gone, and provide equal access to job benefits, health insurance, and disability leave, if need be. If a pregnancy ends up leaving the mother impaired, they can be covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). That means that the job is supposed to be safe before, during and after pregnancy.

So what does that mean for the employer or the staffing agency? It means that dismissing an employee due to pregnancy or pregnancy-related complications is forbidden and can lead to costly employment practices liability claims.

EEOC Strategic Employment Plan

Since 2013, the EEOC has been working on combating pregnancy-related discrimination. The EEOC has been addressing selected emerging and developing issues, including accommodating pregnancy-related limitations under the Americans With Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. In 2006, pregnancy-related discrimination claims went up 30 percent. In 2010, more than 6,000 complaints were filed.

Best Practices

A pregnant employee can make matters more complicated for employers and staffing agencies, but treating the employee poorly or terminating them is not the answer. Instead, consider these measures for legally accommodating pregnant employees:

  • Understand the law. Depending on the size or type of the operation some federal measures may not apply, but the business may instead need to answer to state or local regulations. Make sure you understand which regulations apply to your business, and know exactly what you can and cannot do.
  • Communicate with the employee. Before deciding that a pregnant employee will be a problem, communicate with her about your policies, her plans, and whether she will require any additional accommodations.


About World Wide Specialty Programs

For the last 50 years, World Wide Specialty Programs has dedicated itself to providing the optimal products and solutions for the staffing industry. As the only insurance firm to be an ASA commercial liability partner, we are committed to that partnership and committed to using our knowledge of the industry to provide staffing firms with the best possible coverage. For more information about Staffing Professional Liability Insurance or any other coverage, we have available to protect your staffing business, give us a call at (800) 245-9653 to speak with one of our representatives.