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Federal Pregnancy Protections

By: Virtus Law Group, Birmingham Alabama.

Various federal laws prohibit employers from discriminating against an employee or applicant due to pregnancy, childbirth, or any complications relating to pregnancy or childbirth. In addition to providing protections from discrimination, federal laws also require employers to provide accommodations for pregnant employees in some circumstances.

Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA)

Under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers with 15 or more employees cannot discriminate against an employee in any aspect of employment due to her pregnancy.

If a pregnant woman or new mother is temporarily unable to perform her job functions due to pregnancy or a related condition, her employer must treat her the same way it treats any other temporarily disabled employee. For example, if an employer assigns light duty through worker’s compensation to an employee who injured his back on the job, then it must make similar accommodations for a pregnant woman with similar limitations.

Additionally, if an employer provides disability leave or other unpaid leave to temporarily disabled employees, it must provide the same leave for employees who are temporarily disabled due to pregnancy.

Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

The Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 provides new parents with 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for their new child. The FMLA applies to employers that have 50 or more employees within 75 miles, as well as public or government agencies and schools. Employees are entitled to FMLA leave if they have worked for the employer for a total of 12 months, consecutively or non-consecutively, and have worked at least 1250 hours in the year prior to the request for leave.

The following are some of the situations where FLMA is available to eligible employees:

  • The birth of a child;
  • The placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care;
  • To care for a child, parent, or spouse suffering from a serious health condition;
  • To recover from a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform their job functions; and
  • For certain circumstances arising out of the military service of a child, parent, or spouse.


Employees wishing to take FMLA leave must request it from their employer. Employees should try to give this notice 30 days in advance of beginning the leave, or as soon as is reasonably possible under the circumstances.

When an employee returns to work following FMLA leave, employers are required to restore them to their original job or its equivalent, with the same pay and benefits.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The ADA does not specifically mention pregnancy, but health conditions resulting from pregnancy may be covered. The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with a disability. Employees have a disability covered by the ADA if they have a condition that 1) substantially limits a major life activity, 2) have a history of a disability, and/or 3) is believed to have a disability, even if they do not actually have that condition.

For example, if a pregnant employee develops gestational diabetes, she would be entitled to reasonable accommodations under the ADA, since diabetes substantially limits a major life activity. In order to receive an accommodation from an employer, the pregnant employee must give notice of the limitation to her employer.

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA)

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act that requires employers to allow a reasonable amount of time for new mothers to breast feed or pump for up to a year following the child’s birth. Employers with more than 50 employees are required to provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is private and free from intrusion for employees to use for this purpose.

Your employer must allow you to take time to breast feed and provide a comfortable, private place to do so. If your employer has denied you this right, or has otherwise discriminated against you, an experienced attorney can help.


Founded in Birmingham, Alabama Virtus Law Group is a Personal Injury and Labor and Employment firm serving the people of Alabama.



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