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The rights federal law affords to pregnant employees

The Americans with Disabilities Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and other laws provide protection to female workers against pregnancy-related harassment or discrimination. Some pregnant workers in Maryland might not be aware of their rights, but understanding these rights could be beneficial in case they become a target.

The PDA protects workers from being fired because they are pregnant, were previously pregnant, could or intend to become pregnant, have a pregnancy-related medical condition, or had or are considering an abortion. The law also means that they cannot be demoted, overlooked for a promotion or new job position, forced to go on a leave of absence or given lesser duties for the same reasons. If pregnant workers have a hard time completing their duties, they could request accommodations from their employers under the PDA. For example, they could ask for adjusted break or work times, ergonomic office furniture, or permission to work while sitting, standing or at home.

The ADA also protects against harassment based on pregnancy-related medical conditions. Under it, pregnant workers could ask for accommodations for conditions such as anemia, gestational diabetes, depression, cervical insufficiency and preeclampsia. The condition must substantially limit at least one major bodily function or life activity. However, the ADA does not require employers to offer accommodations that involve significant expense or difficulty.

Pregnant workers who cannot do their regular duties even with accommodations could ask for temporary reassignment or reduced workloads under the PDA if their employers provide accommodations for non-pregnant workers with similar limitations. Employees who cannot work at all because of pregnancy and do not have paid leave might still be entitled to leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Workers who believe they have suffered pregnancy-based unfair treatment could formally complain to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which will investigate the situation and decide whether to pursue the matter further. As there are strict time limits, it is best to begin the process early, and pregnant workers might feel more comfortable doing it with the assistance of an attorney.

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