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Discrimination protection concerning past pregnancies

Discrimination is illegal when it is based on age, color, creed, marital status, mental or physical disability, national origin, race or sex. Residents of Connecticut who have been discriminated against by their employer should know their rights.

Does a past pregnancy protect against discrimination?

Protection against discrimination on the basis of sex is a broad class that encompasses more than just gender; it also includes pregnancy. Most workers are aware that an employer cannot discriminate against a female employee or applicant who is pregnant, intends to become pregnant or who may become pregnant. What is less clear is whether that protection extends to women who were pregnant in the past, and the answer to that question is yes.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has updated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act based on a Supreme Court decision. The new PDA explicitly states that an employer cannot subject an employee or applicant to discrimination based on a past pregnancy.

Is a woman protected due to childbirth-related medical conditions?

Yes. Female employees and applicants are afforded discrimination protection based on medical conditions due to pregnancy, childbirth and related health issues. This includes lactation. An employee must be allowed to attend to her lactation-related needs just as an employee must be able to attend to a medical condition that limits them in some way. Other examples of these conditions include:

  • Back pain
  • Preeclampsia
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Childbirth after-effects

Are caregivers afforded protection?

Another common question is whether the protection extends to caregivers, and the answer is yes if the discrimination is based on sex. If a male employee were denied opportunities or rights due to his responsibilities related to recent childbirth, then this form of discrimination would be protected against as well.

Equal access to benefits

The PDA requires that an employer treat a woman with a pregnancy or related medical condition as they would any other employee with a condition that limited them at work. If, for instance, a company offers light-duty assignments to workers who have been injured on the job, then it must offer those same light duties to a woman who has recently giving birth until she returns to her normal health condition. An employment law attorney may explain the other protections that the law provides.