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Posts in Pregnancy Discrimination.

Thirty-five years ago, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”) established that it is unlawful for employers with fifteen or more employees to discriminate against pregnant workers “because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions.” That remains the basic law of the land today. What has remained unclear, however, is whether Congress, in passing the PDA, meant to compel employers to provide pregnant employees who are not able to work for medical reasons with accommodations, such as a light duty job, to the same extent as similarly situated, non-pregnant employees.

The Supreme Court recently heard oral argument in a case brought by Peggy Young against United Parcel Service (“UPS”) that is expected to provide some guidance as to whether and under what circumstances an employer may be required to accommodate pregnant employees under the PDA. Irrespective of what the court decides, however, covered employers should continue to ask whether such accommodations may still be necessary under recently implemented amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).

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The Pregnancy Discrimination Act requires that employers treat pregnant employees the same as non-pregnant employees who suffer from some injury or sickness that occurred outside of work. 

In our last post, we reviewed the D.C. Fire Department’s change to their pregnancy policy.  In this post we take a look at what the Pregnancy Discrimination Act requires. 

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act:  A Brief History

In 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court found that under Title VII, discrimination based on pregnancy was not sex discrimination.  Unhappy with this interpretation, Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) which became law in 1978.  The PDA amended Title VII and specified that sex discrimination does include discrimination on the basis of pregnancy.

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Earlier this week, D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department changed its policy regarding pregnant firefighters.  The change limits pregnant firefighters to 30-days of light duty during and after pregnancy.

Tom Sherwood from NBC 4 in Washington, DC reports

In a move to cut overtime and other administrative costs, the department is now limiting pregnant firefighters to 30 days of light duty or desk duty during a pregnancy.  After that, the employee must use accrued sick leave or annual leave to cover the rest of the pregnancy or any post pregnancy time off...

Under the old policy, a pregnant firefighter might work several months on light duty until she was due to give birth.  Under the new policy, the firefighter could face several months of no pay at all.