Employment Law Basics: Handling the Pregnancy Discrimination Act

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Employment laws can be confusing and downright scary.

They don’t have to be. As a public service, from now until my special Halloween webinar Answers to the World’s Scariest Employment Law Questions, I’ll be tackling each major law one by one to give you what you REALLY need to know. By the end, you’ll have handy one-page cheat sheets for each and every law and your terror level will be reduced to zero.

Today’s Topic: PDA, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

Here is basically everything you need to know about the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) in one handy post.


What employers are covered?

Those with 15 or more employees.

What employees are covered?

Applicants and employees who are pregnant, give birth, or have related medical conditions.

What’s prohibited?

Discrimination against women in any aspect of employment because of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions.

What’s required?

That women who are pregnant or affected by related conditions be treated in the same manner as other applicants or employees with similar abilities or limitations.

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What’s the effect on insurance plans?

  • Any health insurance provided by an employer must cover expenses for pregnancy-related conditions on the same basis as costs for other medical conditions.
  • Health insurance for expenses arising from abortion is not required, except where the life of the mother is endangered.
  • Pregnancy-related expenses must be reimbursed in the same manner as those incurred for other medical conditions.
  • Employers must provide the same level of health benefits for spouses of male employees as they do for spouses of female employees.

What’s the effect on fringe benefits?

  • Pregnancy-related benefits cannot be limited to married employees.
  • If an employer provides benefits to workers on leave, the employer must provide the same benefits for those on leave for pregnancy-related conditions.

Does the PDA provide leave?

No. However, employers should be aware that:

  • The FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) allows unpaid leave for childbirth, adoptions and foster care placements and for an employee’s serious health condition, which can include complications or conditions relating to pregnancy and childbirth.
  • The ADA may provide for leave for pregnant employees or employees with a pregnancy-related condition in limited circumstances

Top PDA tips

  • The PDA is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • Pregnant employees cannot be forced to take leave, or remain on leave, while pregnant as long as they are able to perform their jobs.
  • Employers cannot have a rule that prohibits an employee from returning to work for a predetermined period after childbirth.
  • Employers must hold open a job for a pregnant employee for the same length of time it would hold open a job for employees on sick or disability leave.
  • The PDA does not prohibit employment practices that favor pregnant women. Employers should consider their obligations under the PDA as a floor, not a ceiling.
  • Generally, pregnancy is not covered under the ADA, but where an employee experiences substantial complications that limit a major life activity, she may be considered disabled under the ADA and entitled to an accommodation.

Stay tuned for more. Tomorrow we’ll de-scare-ify Section 409A.

This was originally published on Manpower Group’s Employment Blawg.

Mark Toth has served as Manpower Group North America's Chief Legal Officer since 2000. He also serves on the company’s Global Leadership Team, Global Legal Lead Team and North American Lead Team. Mark is recognized as an expert on legal issues affecting the U.S. workplace and is frequently quoted in media from The Wall Street Journal to 60 Minutes. He is also a past Chair of the American Staffing Association and is a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources. Contact him at mark.toth@manpowergroup.com.


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