OK Pregnancy Discrimination Is the Same as Gender Discrimination

Many Oklahoma residents are likely aware that employers are forbidden by law to discriminate on the basis of gender in both the hiring process and after an employee is working for that employer. What might not be as widely known, however, is that part and parcel of the prohibition against gender discrimination is that employers also cannot discriminate based upon the condition of pregnancy.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the wellspring that gives birth to most of the anti-discrimination laws and policies that are in force today. Nonetheless, it was not until 1978 that congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. This act amended the civil rights law to clarify that discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or medical conditions that arise from such a condition. This means not only for purposes of hiring, promotion and pay raises, but also in the area of benefits, such as retirement or medical insurance.

There are a couple of caveats. There is specific language in the act that does not require an employer to pay for insurance that covers abortions unless required to save the life of the mother. Also, if pregnancy renders a person unable to work, the employer does not have to pay wages, as long as that policy applies equally to all individuals who are unable to work for any reason. There are other provisions of federal law that apply to maternity leave and the like, such as the Family Medical Leave Act.

It was, for many years, the argument of employers that women were not hired, or paid less and not promoted, because the employer assumed that, at some point in the future, the female employee would get pregnant and be unavailable to do her job. Those arguments have now been relegated to the dustbin of history by the enactment of laws, such as the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978. The mere fact that someone is pregnant, or has the capacity to became pregnant, does not render her less valuable as an employee or human being. Anyone who believes she has been discriminated against due to pregnancy or gender may wish to consider contacting an experienced Oklahoma legal professional.

Source: EEOC.gov, "The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978," accessed on Oct. 14, 2014