Many employers are familiar with federal discrimination laws such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. However, some employers may be unaware that there are specific state and federal laws that directly focus on pregnancy discrimination. Every year the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) receives thousands of charges related to pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. In 2020, the EEOC received 2,698 claims involving pregnancy discrimination. As such, it is important for companies to know and understand the laws regarding pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”) is the federal law which amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to include discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions in any aspect of employment, including but not limited to, hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, and training.

Further, under federal law, pregnancy is considered a temporary disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). The EEOC has advised that if a pregnant individual is temporarily unable to perform her job duties due to a medical condition related to her pregnancy or childbirth, the covered employer must treat the pregnant individual in the same way they treat any other temporarily disabled employee. In these situations, an employer may need to provide light duty, alternative assignments, disability leave, or unpaid leave to a pregnant employee if it does so for other employees who are temporarily disabled.

Also, impairments resulting from an individual’s pregnancy, like gestational diabetes or preeclampsia, may also be considered disabilities under the ADA. As such, an employer may be required to provide a reasonable accommodation for a disability related to the pregnancy, unless the employer can show doing so would cause an undue hardship.

Nevada has the Nevada’s Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act. This law is more expansive. Under the Nevada Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act, it is an unlawful employment practice for employers to take adverse action or deny a reasonable accommodation to female employees or applicants for employment based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

The Nevada Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act prohibits an employer from refusing to provide a reasonable accommodation upon request unless the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the business of the employer; taking an adverse employment action because the employee requests or uses a reasonable accommodation; and, denying an employment opportunity to an otherwise qualified female employee or applicant based on the need of the employee or applicant for a reasonable accommodation.

There are two other prohibitions that some employers run afoul of. The first one is that employers may not require a pregnant employee or applicant to accept an accommodation that the employee or applicant did not request or chooses not to accept. Even if an employer believes that a reasonable accommodation is in the best interest of the employee, under the law, they may not force the pregnant employee or applicant to accept that reasonable accommodation if they do not want to. Secondly, employers may not require a female employee to take leave if a reasonable accommodation is available that would allow her to continue work. As such, employers need to do their due diligence and follow the interactive process to determine if a reasonable accommodation is available prior to informing a female employee that they must go on leave.

The responsibility to prevent pregnancy discrimination in the workplace is on employers. It is important for employers to be aware of and knowledgeable about pregnancy discrimination laws (and to train managers and supervisors so they are aware and knowledgeable) so that they make sure that they remain complaint and don’t make any missteps.