Most employees and employers know that workplace discrimination exists, and most, often focus on those discriminatory practices most in the news, race, sex, religious, etc. However, what many may not realize is that pregnancy discrimination is common, especially now that employers have affirmative duties for their lactating employees.
First, it is important to understand that Santa Monica, California, employers cannot take any negative employment actions based on an employee’s pregnancy, having the baby or any pregnancy-related medical condition. This is a federally protected right, but it is also reflected in most state and some local laws as well. At the basic level, for example, employers cannot refuse to hire or fire a pregnant woman or a mother simply because they will have a baby or already have a child. This is true, even if the business owner is concerned about the amount of time they will need to take off for the birth/baby. Essentially, pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions must be treated similarly to other employees that have similar employment limitations.
Pregnancy is not, by itself a disability
Some Los Angeles area employers believe that since pregnancy alone is not a disability that it is not a basis for discrimination. However, that is simply not the case. First, pregnancy discrimination can qualify as sex discrimination, but pregnancy-related health conditions can qualify as disability within the meaning of the ADA. This means that discrimination based on that violates the ADA, and pregnant employees qualify for reasonable accommodations in the employer’s policies and workplace conditions.
Breast feeding affirmative rights
As a pregnancy-related medical condition, breast feeding and lactation must be treated accordingly. However, Southern California employers also have affirmative duties to their breast feeding and lactating employees. First, they must provide reasonable break time for the employee to express milk or pump. Second, they must provide a private (not a bathroom) room for that expression or pumping. And, finally, they are required to make reasonable accommodations to help facilitate that expression. This could be to modify schedules, break times, allowing for light duty, etc.