As a small business owner, you may struggle to keep up with an ever-changing framework of state and federal employment laws. Still, if you fail to comply with these laws, you can face a variety of consequences.
If you own a small business that has at least 15 employees, you generally must comply with the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act. This act prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals in four key areas.
1. Current pregnancies
The PDA prohibits covered employers from discriminating against workers who are currently pregnant. Therefore, if you have a pregnant employee, you cannot take adverse employment action against the individual, even if doing so is in her interests. You can and should take reasonable steps to accommodate the pregnant employee, however.
2. Past pregnancies
While you certainly cannot discriminate against pregnant employees, you also cannot discriminate against those who have had a baby in the past. This type of discrimination may occur if you take adverse employment action toward the end of an employee’s maternity leave. Accordingly, after an employee gives birth, you should treat her the same as other workers.
3. Possible pregnancies
You may have an employee or applicant who is actively trying to start a family. If so, discriminating against her may violate the PDA. For example, you should not refuse to hire a woman because you believe she may have a baby and quit her job. Similarly, you should not make employment decisions based on how you perceive a possible pregnancy may affect job performance.
4. Pregnancy-related medical conditions
Pregnant women and new mothers may develop pregnancy-related medical conditions. Generally, you cannot use these conditions, such as the need to express breast milk, to make employment decisions. Rather, you must treat the employee the same as other similar workers.
Providing reasonable accommodations without taking adverse employment action can be effective way to avoid a costly pregnancy-related discrimination charge.