The Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it illegal to discriminate against employees on the basis of sex or gender among other protected statuses. Passed in 1978, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act is an amendment to the Civil Rights Act that specifically outlines the rights of employees who are pregnant or may become so in the future.
Generally speaking, an employee who is pregnant should receive the same treatment as colleagues of similar abilities who are not. According to Chron.com, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act affords the following specific rights to employees to whom it applies.
An employer cannot force a pregnant employee to take on tasks not usually included in her job duties if the pregnancy does not interfere with her ability to perform her job effectively.
Employers cannot impose higher deductibles or coverage limits on pregnancy than would apply to other medical conditions. They cannot deny coverage to employees on the basis of pregnancy, and they must cover pregnancy-related conditions according to the same criteria used to determine coverage for any other medical condition.
Employers must secure the positions of employees on maternity leave just as they would other employees who are on leave for other medical reasons. For example, there can be no changes to an employee’s vacation pay and seniority accrual during maternity leave.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act also protects those who are seeking employment. It is illegal for an employer to refuse to hire a candidate on the basis of pregnancy. It is also illegal for an employer to use a plan or wish to become pregnant as a basis for not hiring an otherwise-qualified candidate.
Pregnant employees have the right to equal treatment under the law. There are penalties for employers who deny them that.