Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against pregnant women by refusing to interview them, refusing to hire them or terminating their employment based solely on their pregnancy status. This law only applies to employers who have 15 or more workers. Employers with less than 15 workers are able to refuse to interview and hire pregnant women as long as they're not breaking any state laws that say otherwise.
Employers cannot refuse to interview or offer employment to a pregnant woman based solely on the fact that she's pregnant. The reason being is because employers can be held legally liable if they don't adhere to both state and federal anti-discrimination laws. Exceptions to these laws can be made under certain circumstances.
In addition to anti-discrimination federal laws, employers must also abide by similar state laws. While each state has its own set of anti-discrimination laws in place, many states have enacted laws prohibiting employers with less than 15 employees from discriminating against pregnant women. For example, California law sets no numerical limit as to how many employees a business has. This makes it illegal in California for any employer to discriminate against pregnant women no matter how many workers they employ.
Employers are allowed to refuse to interview and hire women under special circumstances. For example, employers can legally refuse to hire pregnant women for certain occupations that are deemed dangerous and pose a health hazard to both the pregnant woman and her baby. Also, pregnant applicants must be able to handle the physical aspects of the position in which they are applying, or the employer can refuse to hire them on the basis of not being capable of doing the job.
Filing a Complaint
If you feel you've been discriminated against based on your pregnancy status, you have the right to file a charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The deadline to file a charge is 180 days from the date the discriminatory act took place. Exceptions are made in certain states where charges must be first brought through state agencies. In these states, the deadline to file a charge is 300 days from the date the discriminatory act took place, or 30 days from when the state agency stopped processing the charge, whichever is earlier.
- Brayton Purcell LLP: Protection Against Workplace Harassment
- The Lectric Law Library: Pregnancy Discrimination - Know Your Rights
- HR Specialist: Pregnant Employees: Answers to 7 Questions on Hiring and Employment Status
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Facts About Pregnancy Discrimination
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Filing a Charge