Pregnancy Discrimination Laws in Pennsylvania
Unfortunately, pregnancy discrimination remains a serious problem in Pennsylvania and throughout the United States. According to data provided by the National Partnership for Women & Families, nearly 31,000 cases of pregnancy discrimination were filed with federal and state agencies between 2011 and 2015. Undoubtedly, there are many incidents of pregnancy discrimination in which claims are never filed, for a variety of reasons.
Workers are protected from pregnancy discrimination under federal, state and local laws. As with other employment cases, sometimes pregnancy discrimination can be difficult to detect. It can come in many different forms, including maternity leave discrimination and retaliation, workplace harassment, demotion, and more.
Here, our top-rated Philadelphia pregnancy discrimination lawyers provide guidance with regard to all aspects of Pennsylvania pregnancy laws. If you believe that you or your partner was the victim of pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, you should consult with an experienced employment discrimination lawyer immediately.
Can I Be Fired for Being Pregnant?
Employers that are covered by pregnancy discrimination laws may not take adverse action against a pregnant worker simply because of that status. Indeed, employers are generally required to treat pregnant workers in the same manner — meaning no better or no worse — as any other similarly-situated employee at the company. In certain contexts, employers may even be required to take proactive steps to help accommodate a pregnant worker.
Pregnancy Laws in Pennsylvania
Federal Law: The Pregnancy Discrimination Act
The most important federal law protecting pregnant workers is the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA). This federal statute applies to all companies that have at least fifteen employees. Under the PDA, employers are prohibited from discriminating against workers on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or any related medical condition. Employers are also prohibited from retaliating against an employee for complaining about pregnancy discrimination or for exercising their right to maternity leave.
In the eyes of the law, pregnancy is treated much like a temporary disability. As such, employers must treat pregnant workers similar to how they would treat other temporarily disabled workers. In other words, they must provide reasonable accommodations when it is appropriate to do so. This could potentially include providing light duty work or the offering of an alternative job assignment.
Federal Law: The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
If a pregnant employee works at least 1,250 hours in the past 12 months at a company that has 50 or more employees within 75 miles of the employee’s worksite, then she is covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This law allows covered workers to, among other things, take unpaid leave for certain medical issues, including pregnancy, without facing any retaliation or negative employment action.
State Law: The Pennsylvania Human Rights Act
The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) provides workers with state-level protection against pregnancy discrimination and retaliation. In many ways, this statute is similar to the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Unlike the FMLA, the PHRA applies to all companies with four or more employees, and does not require that the employee have worked there for 1,250 hours.
Local Law: Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance
Some local jurisdictions have also enacted their own laws to protect pregnant workers. One example of this is the city of Philadelphia. Under Philadelphia’s Fair Practices Ordinance (PFPO), covered employers in the city have additional obligations to pregnant workers. Specifically, Philadelphia law requires private and government employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees as a result of pregnancy, childbirth, or any related medical issue. However, the employer may be able to avoid having to provide the accommodation if it can show that the requested accommodation presents an undue hardship on the employer.
What Damages Are Available As A Result of Pregnancy Discrimination?
Similar to other employment law claims, the damages available in a pregnancy discrimination claim will depend on the unique circumstances of the case. Victims of pregnancy and maternity leave discrimination may be entitled to monetary compensation, equitable relief, or both. Depending on the nature of the claim, damages can include:
- Financial compensation for lost wages, back pay, front pay, and loss of benefits;
- Compensation for all out-of-pocket expenses, including legal costs and attorneys’ fees;
- Recovery for pain and suffering and emotional distress;
- Punitive damages;
- Liquidated damages (under the FMLA); and
- Reinstatement if you were wrongfully terminated.
In especially egregious cases of pregnancy discrimination, the victim may be entitled to recover punitive damages. Punitive damages are designed to punish the bad actions of the defendant and to deter similar behavior by others.
Contact Our Pennsylvania Pregnancy Discrimination Lawyers Today
At Console Mattiacci Law, our Philadelphia pregnancy discrimination attorneys have the skills and experience needed to protect your rights. If you or your loved one suffered any form of pregnancy discrimination on the job, we can help.
For a fully confidential consultation, please contact our law firm now. With an office in the heart of Philadelphia, we represent employees throughout the region, including in Montgomery County, Delaware County, Bucks County, and Chester County.