The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) forbids discrimination based on pregnancy when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, such as leave and health insurance, and any other term or condition of employment.
If a woman is temporarily unable to perform her job due to a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth, the employer or other covered entity must treat her in the same way as it treats any other temporarily disabled employee. For example, the employer may have to provide light duty, alternative assignments, disability leave, or unpaid leave to pregnant employees if it does so for other temporarily disabled employees.
Additionally, impairments resulting from pregnancy (for example, gestational diabetes or preeclampsia, a condition characterized by pregnancy-induced hypertension and protein in the urine) may be disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). An employer may have to provide a reasonable accommodation (such as leave or modifications that enable an employee to perform her job) for a disability related to pregnancy, absent undue hardship (significant difficulty or expense). The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 makes it much easier to show that a medical condition is a covered disability. For more information about the ADA, see http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/disability.cfm. For information about the ADA Amendments Act, see http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/disability_regulations.cfm.
An employer many not refuse to hire a woman because of her pregnancy related condition so long as she is able to perform the major functions of the job. Additionally, pregnant employees must be permitted to work as long as they are able to perform their jobs. If an employee is absent from work for a pregnancy related condition, but recovers, the employer may not require her to remain on leave until the birth of the child.
For more information about disability and benefits as it relates to pregnant employees, please see our sections covering Disability, and FMLA.