Pregnancy Discrimination

Examples of Pregnancy Discrimination

  • A company refuses to hire you because you’re going to need maternity leave
  • Your employer refuses to allow you time off for doctors’ appointments or maternity leave
  • Your employer refuses to allow you time to pump—or a private, clean place to do so
  • Your boss reassigns your job duties to someone else while you’re on leave and doesn’t give them back to you upon your return

Your rights as a mother

The United States Supreme Court had previously stated that laws prohibiting sex discrimination did not apply when a woman was discriminated against because of a pregnancy. Ignoring the clear link between being female and being pregnant, the Court reasoned that it was not sex discrimination when an employer treated “pregnant people” differently than “non-pregnant people.”

In response, Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, which made it clear that laws prohibiting discrimination based on sex included pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions.

A pregnant employee who is eligible for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is entitled to up to 12 weeks of protected medical leave for her pregnancy or pregnancy-related condition.

Iowa law also guarantees women up to 8 weeks of medical leave for pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions. This can be important information to know, especially if you don’t qualify for FMLA leave because of the size of your employer or the short time you’ve been employed.

Similarly, Nebraska law requires “reasonable accommodations” for pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions, which includes time off work to recover from birth.

Breastfeeding and Pumping Rights

The 2010 Affordable Care Act amended the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to require employers to provide “reasonable break time for an employee to express milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.” The frequency of breaks needed to express breast milk as well as the duration of each break can vary from person to person. The amendment’s protections apply to all non-exempt employees covered by the FLSA.

Employers are also required to provide “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.”

Employers are not required under the FLSA to pay nursing mothers for breaks taken for the purpose of expressing milk. However, if employers already provide paid breaks, an employee who uses that break time to express milk must be compensated in the same way that other employees are compensated for break time.

Of course, some job duties can be performed at the same time as pumping. If an employee is expressing milk while responding to work emails, she must be paid for this break.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Pregnancy Discrimintaion