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Pregnancy Discrimination Act - An Overview

Pregnancy Discrimination Act - An Overview

The PDA amends Title VII to prohibit an employer from treating pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions any differently than it treats other temporary disabilities for purposes of employment, including hiring, firing, promotion, seniority, leaves of absence, benefits, pay increases, and other terms or conditions of employment.

The PDA does not require employers to treat pregnant employees in any special manner with respect to employment-related matters, to establish any new programs where none currently exists, or to provide pregnancy-related disability leave to any employees.


Employers with at least 15 employees on each working day in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year are covered by the PDA.  In addition, an employer with a significant number of part-time employees might be covered, even though fewer than 15 individuals are scheduled to work on any one day.

Pregnancy Leave

An employer may not pre-establish the following.

  • A mandatory beginning date for maternity leave (e.g., beginning of third trimester).  An employer cannot force an employee to take time off for pregnancy or a pregnancy-related condition, unless the condition prevents the employee from being able to do her job. 

  • A length of time for maternity leave (e.g., at least four weeks after the birth).  A woman who has given birth must be allowed to return to her job when she can perform it if other employees who have been absent because of a temporary disability are allowed to return to work as soon as they are able.  If a doctor's statement is required to establish return dates for pregnant workers, a similar statement must be required for employees on disability leave for other reasons.


Reinstatement rights of women on leave for pregnancy or pregnancy-related reasons are protected to the extent employees on other types of disability leave have such rights.  Such rights include return to the same or an equivalent position, seniority, and retirement benefits.


Any benefits provided to employees with temporary, long-term, or permanent disabilities must also be available to employees disabled by pregnancy-related conditions.  Examples: paying disability benefits, health and life insurance premium payments, pension accrual, and profit-sharing plans.

If an employer offers different health plans for employees to choose from, each plan must cover pregnancy-related conditions and the deductible for such conditions must be the same.

If an employer's insured health plan denies coverage for pre-existing conditions, that plan may deny coverage for a pregnancy that exists at the time that the coverage became effective.  However, an employer is prohibited from applying any such limit differently for pregnancy-related conditions than for other medical conditions.

The PDA does not require that an employer health plan provide dependent or spousal coverage.  If a plan restricts coverage to employees, additional coverage is not required.

If the medical expenses of employees' spouses are covered under the employer's plan, pregnancy-related expenses of a male employee's wife must receive the same coverage.  However, a pregnant spouse does not necessarily have to receive the same coverage as a pregnant employee.


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