Highlights of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act: Employees

Guidelines for Practice Success | Managing Pregnancy | Business Operations

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) prohibits discrimination on the basis of:

  • age
  • disability
  • equal pay/compensation
  • genetic information
  • harassment
  • national origin
  • pregnancy
  • race/color
  • religion
  • retaliation
  • sex
  • sexual harassment

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA) amends Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that made it illegal to discriminate against a woman because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth. The law also makes it illegal to retaliate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act applies to employers, including dental practices, with at least 15 or more full-time, part-time and temporary employees.

Under the Act, employers:

  • Must allow pregnant employees to work as long as they are able to perform their jobs.
  • Must treat pregnant employees unable to perform their responsibilities in the same way that they treat any disabled employee.
    • This may include implementing accommodations such as assigning different tasks or assignments, reducing the work load, offering disability or leave without pay.
  • Are not required to maintain pregnant employees in jobs they cannot perform but are prohibited from removing a pregnant employee from a position because they believe the work could be a risk to the employee and the pregnancy.
  • May not require a pregnant employee who has been absent from work as a result of the pregnancy to remain on leave until the baby's birth.
  • Cannot establish rules that prevent an employee who has given birth from returning to work for a predetermined length of time after delivery.
  • Cannot single out pregnancy-related conditions for medical clearance procedures that are not required of other employees who are similar in their ability to work. 
    • For example, an employer can only require a pregnant employee on leave to provide a physician’s note regarding the inability to work prior to starting leave or receiving sick/disability benefits if the same requirement applies to all other employees on medical leave.
  • Who allow temporarily disabled employees to take disability leave or leave without pay must allow pregnant employees to do the same.
  • Must hold the pregnant employee’s job open for the same length of time that jobs are held open for other employees on sick or temporary disability leave not related to pregnancy.
  • Must provide health insurance coverage for pregnancy at a level and amount that is on par with the coverage made available for employees with medical issues not related to pregnancy.
  • Are not mandated to provide health insurance benefits to cover the medical costs of terminated pregnancies except in cases where the life of the pregnant employee is endangered.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission offers valuable resources on several relevant topics, including Pregnancy Discrimination and Prohibited Employment Policies/Practices.