There is a general understanding that the law affords certain protections for pregnant people in the workplace. Most notably, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination in the workplace on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed in 1978 as an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which is the same law that protects employees against discrimination for sex, race, national origin, or religion.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 protects pregnant people as well as people who have just given birth. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act requires employers to treat pregnancy-related conditions the same as other medical conditions. Therefore, employers must reasonably accommodate pregnant or recently-pregnant people with conditions related to pregnancy, such as morning sickness, back pain, or needing to pump. Examples of reasonable accommodations employers may offer to their pregnant or recently-pregnant employees include providing more frequent restroom breaks, modifying work duties, or providing a temporary leave of absence. However, it is important to note that employers are prohibited from forcing pregnant employees to take leave if they are able to perform their job duties with reasonable accommodations such as the ones just listed.
Additionally, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits employers from denying employment opportunities to people based on their pregnancy status, such as refusing to hire pregnant candidates or denying promotions to people who have recently given birth. Furthermore, employers are prohibited from asking candidates during job interviews (or any time during the hiring process) if they are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant.
Furthermore, employers are prohibited from making hiring decisions based on pregnancy status, just as they are prohibited from making hiring decisions based on race, sex, national origin, or religious preference.
But sometimes a pregnancy affects a person’s life in more pervasive ways, giving rise to serious health complications. This begs the question, is pregnancy considered a disability under the law?
The short answer is that pregnancy alone is not considered a disability under Texas state law or federal law. However, the Americans with Disabilities Act does afford protections for pregnant employees who experience disabilities that arise out of pregnancy. In other words, if pregnancy complications arise to the level of a disability under the ADA, that employee is afforded ADA protections. But an ordinary pregnancy itself is not considered a disability under the ADA.
A recent case out of the Western District of Texas examined this issue closer. In Hernandez v. Clearwater Transportation, Ltd., the Court found that the pregnant employee was indeed a qualified individual with a disability under the ADA because her pregnancy-induced condition, hyperemesis gravidarim, affected her daily life in such a way that it ought to be afforded legal protection as other disabilities under the ADA. To put it simply, if a pregnancy induces a serious illness or medical condition, it may rise to the level of a legally-protected disability.
Once afforded ADA protections, a pregnant person is entitled to request reasonable accommodations in the workplace, and their employer must engage in the interactive process to furnish a reasonable accommodation. Furthermore, a person may not be retaliated against for requesting reasonable accommodations, using reasonable accommodations, or taking time from work to treat their disability.
In sum, the law protects pregnant people in the workplace in a variety of ways. Do you believe you’ve been discriminated against due to your pregnancy status or a disability arising out of pregnancy? Contact one of our talented Texas Employment Lawyers today for a consultation.