In this day and age, people don't expect to hear stories of women being fired or treated negatively in their jobs because of pregnancy. But unfortunately, pregnancy discrimination is alive and well. Thankfully, for Indianians legal remedies may be available for pregnancy discrimination at work under both federal and state laws.
Federal Law On Pregnancy Discrimination
Federal civil rights law prohibits discrimination in employment or harassment at work because of an employee's pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. This applies to employers with at least 15 employees. The federal agency that enforces this law is the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or EEOC.
Traditionally, people think of employment discrimination as illegal firing or refusing to hire because of an aspect of the person that is legally protected like religion, sex, race and so on. The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act or PDA not only forbids those actions, but also protects pregnant workers from discriminatory actions in any other aspect of employment such as promotions, benefits, leaves, training, wages and so on.
Federal protection against pregnancy discrimination requires that an employer treat a pregnant employee temporarily unable to perform her duties in the same way the employer would treat another employee with a temporary disability. This can mean that the job duties may have to be adjusted or a short-term leave provided to an ill or medically restricted pregnant employee, if the same would be provided to a nonpregnant employee with similar restrictions.
Legal remedies under the PDA may include lost wages, attorneys fees, injunctive relief, job reinstatement, punitive damages for intentional discrimination and potentially more. Generally, an employee must first file her PDA claim with the EEOC, which will investigate and may either take legal action on her behalf or issue a right to sue letter allowing the claim to be filed in federal court.
Some pregnancy-related conditions may be considered disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA, which would require reasonable workplace accommodations. Also, the Family and Medical Leave Act or FMLA may provide the right to (usually) unpaid leave for some conditions related to pregnancy and for new parents, subject to eligibility rules about length of service and number of employees.
Indiana Civil Rights Law
The state of Indiana's Civil Rights Law prohibits denial of employment opportunity based on sex. The law does not explicitly use the word "pregnancy," but since pregnancy is exclusive to women, presumably the prohibition also applies to pregnant women.
If a claim can be made under the Indiana law, it might be to a woman's advantage if her employer employs less than 15 people. Indiana prohibits discrimination by employers of at least six people, while the federal law applies only to employers of at least 15.
Indiana complaints may be filed with the state civil rights commission, which will investigate, gather evidence and decide if there has been illegal discriminatory treatment. If so, the agency can order the employer to stop and to pay wrongfully lost wages. Alternatively, the parties can agree in writing to take the matter to court instead.
Seek Out The Advice Of An Employment Attorney
This article only scratches the surface of pregnancy discrimination law in Indiana. Both Indiana and federal laws against pregnancy discrimination in employment have detailed procedural requirements and filing deadlines. Therefore, it is important that anyone who feels she may have been illegally discriminated against at work because of pregnancy should speak with a knowledgeable employment lawyer who can advise the employee about potential legal remedies and clarify deadlines and other requirements for bringing an administrative complaint or lawsuit.