Protecting Yourself from Employment Discrimination during Pregnancy

Posted on behalf of Stewart Bell, PLLC on Oct 15, 2014 in Employment Law

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If you live in West Virginia and are pregnant, two laws exist, a federal law and a state law, to protect you from discrimination and adverse employment action during your pregnancy. One law enacted to protect you is the West Virginia Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. It can be found at West Virginia Code § 5-11B-1, et seq. This law was only recently enacted. It was passed March 6, 2014 and became effective June 4, 2014. This law may protect you if you work for a company or individual that employs 12 or more workers for 20 or more calendar weeks out of the year.

The West Virginia Pregnant Workers Fairness Act says that if you are currently employed or applying for a job, your current or future employer must make what is known as a reasonable accommodation for the known limitations related to your pregnancy, childbirth, or any related medical condition such as preeclampsia or gestational diabetes. Because the West Virginia Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is new, West Virginia has not yet decided what common examples of reasonable accommodations might be, but it is likely that they could include lifting modifications, modifications if your job requires you to stand for extended periods of time, or even, potentially, the ability to work from home. The West Virginia Pregnant Workers Fairness Act does require you to submit a written doctors excuse setting forth the reasonable accommodations you need, but it protects you during and after the time you submit the written doctors excuse. The West Virginia Pregnant Workers Fairness Act also states that an employer cannot deny employment opportunities to a job applicant or employee if the denial is based on the refusal of the employer to make a reasonable accommodation. The West Virginia Pregnant Workers Fairness Act also gives you the right whether or not to accept a reasonable accommodation that your employer offers you. Finally, the West Virginia Pregnant Workers Fairness Act states that your employer cannot make you take leave, paid or unpaid, as a reasonable accommodation if another reasonable accommodation can be provided without causing undue hardship to the employer.

The other law that may offer you protection if you are pregnant and either employed or seeking employment is the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. This is a federal law found in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It states that, if you work for an employer with 15 or more employees or you work for a government agency, discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions constitutes sex discrimination and is unlawful.

If you are looking for a job and are pregnant, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act makes it illegal for an employer to refuse to hire you simply because you are pregnant or suffer from a pregnancy-related health condition. If you already have a job and are worried about being able to keep it throughout your pregnancy, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act protects you, too. It states that an employer may not single out pregnancy-related conditions for special procedures to determine an employees ability to work, although, like under the West Virginia law, a written doctors excuse may be required. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act further provides that if you become temporarily disabled due to pregnancy, your employer must treat you the same as it treats all other temporarily disabled employees. This means you may be able to modify your tasks or take leave if other temporarily disabled workers are allowed such modifications. Also, your employer is required to permit you to work for as long as you are able to perform your job and, if you need to miss work for pregnancy-related reasons, your employer must hold your position open for the same amount of time as it would hold open the position of someone on sick or disability leave. Finally, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act protects your ability to obtain and retain health insurance. It provides that any health insurance provided by an employer must cover expenses for pregnancy-related conditions on the same basis as costs for other medical conditions, and that pregnancy-related expenses should be reimbursed exactly as those incurred for other medical conditions. 

If you are pregnant and live in West Virginia, by law, your employer or potential employer must comply with the provisions of the West Virginia Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act or you can hold them accountable in court. If you think you have been discriminated against under either of these acts, you should contact an attorney skilled in this area, such as those at Stewart Bell, PLLC. That attorney may be able to recover damages for you. Additionally, your employer may be required to pay you attorneys fees and costs.

If you are pregnant and believe you might have been discriminated against, please give the qualified attorneys at Stewart Bell, PLLC a call, toll-free, at (800) 342-1701 and we will help.

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