The Pregnancy Discrimination Act: Implications for Dental Practice Owners and Staff

Guidelines for Practice Success | Managing Pregnancy | Business Operations

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) prohibits employers with a minimum of 15 employees from:

  • Refusing to hire a woman because of pregnancy.
  • Firing or forcing a woman to leave her position because of pregnancy.
  • Taking away certain benefits – such as credit for previous years worked, accrued retirement benefits or seniority because or maternity leave.
  • Firing or refusing to hire a woman because she opted to terminate a pregnancy.

The Act also mandates that pregnant women be eligible for temporary job reassignment to easier duties if pregnancy makes her unable to perform her current duties.

Be aware that a lack of knowledge of the law’s requirements, or failure to comply with the rules, has the potential to lead to an employee filing a complaint against the practice.

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 other disabled employee. This may include implementing accommodations such as assigning different assignments or modified tasks, 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.