At the federal level the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) is Congress' attempt at preventing employers from discriminating against pregnant women.
As summarized by the EEOC:
The PDA amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions constitutes unlawful sex discrimination under Title VII, which covers employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. Title VII also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations, as well as to the federal government. Women who are pregnant or affected by related conditions must be treated in the same manner as other applicants or employees with similar abilities or limitations.
Title VII's pregnancy-related protections include:
An employer cannot refuse to hire a pregnant woman because of her pregnancy, because of a related condition, or because of the prejudices of co-workers, clients, or customers.
An employer may not single out child-bearing or child-birth related conditions for special procedures to determine an employee's ability to work. However, if an employer requires its employees to submit a doctor's statement concerning their inability to work before granting leave or paying sick benefits, the employer may require employees affected by conditions related to child birth to submit such statements.
If an employee is temporarily unable to perform her job because of her condition, the employer must treat her the same as any other temporarily disabled employee. For example, if the employer allows temporarily disabled employees to modify tasks, perform alternative assignments, or take disability leave or leave without pay, the employer also must allow an employee who is temporarily disabled because of child-bearing or child-birth to do the same.
Pregnant employees must be permitted to work as long as they are able to perform their jobs. If an employee has been absent from work as a result of a pregnancy-related condition and recovers, her employer may not require her to remain on leave until the baby's birth. An employer also may not have a rule that prohibits an employee from returning to work for a predetermined length of time after childbirth.
Employers must hold open a job for an absensce realted to child bearing and child birth the same length of time jobs are held open for employees on sick or disability leave.
- Health Insurance
Any health insurance provided by an employer must cover expenses for child bearing and child birth as welll as related conditions on the same basis as costs for other medical conditions. An employer need not provide health insurance for expenses arising from abortion, except where the life of the mother is endangered.
Related expenses should be reimbursed exactly as those incurred for other medical conditions, whether payment is on a fixed basis or a percentage of reasonable-and-customary-charge basis.
The amounts payable by the insurance provider can be limited only to the same extent as amounts payable for other conditions. No additional, increased, or larger deductible can be imposed.
Employers must provide the same level of health benefits for spouses of male employees as they do for spouses of female employees.
- Fringe Benefits
Pregnancy-related benefits cannot be limited to married employees. In an all-female workforce or job classification, benefits must be provided for pregnancy-related conditions if benefits are provided for other medical conditions.
If an employer provides any benefits to workers on leave, the employer must provide the same benefits for those on leave for pregnancy-related conditions.
Employees on leave because of child-bearing or child-birth or related conditions must be treated the same as other temporarily disabled employees for accrual and crediting of seniority, vacation calculation, pay increases, and temporary disability benefits.
It is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate or for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under Title VII.
The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission handles claims on the federal level. They enforce federal anti-discrimination laws including laws against sexual harassment. The claim must be filed within 300 days of the occurence.
The EEOC can be contacted at:
U.S. Equal Employment Oppor. Comm'n Chicago District Office
500 W. Madison,
Chicago, IL 60611-2511
(312) 353-2713; 2714
(312) 353-2421 (TDD)
(312) 353-7355 (Fax)
The State of Illinois uses both the Illinois Department of Human Rights and Illinois Human Rights Commission to handle claims under the Illnois Human Rights Act. Claims must be filed within 180 days of the occurence.
A charge is filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and an agent is assigned to investigate the claim. If the claim is found to have merit a charge is filed with the Illinois Human Rights Commission. An individual has a right to file a charge with the Illinois Human Rights Commission even if the IDHR does not find their claim to have merit.
The Human Rights Commission assigns an administrative judge to the case and a public hearing is held to determine the merits of the claim.
The Illinois Department of Human Rights can be contacted at:
Illinois Department of Human Rights
James R. Thompson Center
100 W. Randolph
Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 263-1579 (TDD)
(312) 814-1541 (Fax)
If you live in Cook County you can file a charge with the Cook County Commission on Human Rights. The Commission on Human Rights is charged with applying the Cook County Human Rights Ordinance.
The Commission on Human Rights can be contacted at:
Cook County Commission on Human Rights
69 W. Washington St.
Chicago, IL 60602
(312) 603-1101 (TDD)
(312) 603-9988 (FAX)
The city of Chicago Commission on Human Relations hears complaints filed by plaintiffs and can award monetary damages to the successful plaintiff.
Filing a charge with the Chicago Commission on Human Relations is free and no lawyer is required to pursue a case. Though it is generally advisable to hire a lawyer to represent you as the defendant usually will and the legal arguments will be more familiar to a lawyer.
The Commission on Human Relations can be contacted at:
Chicago Commission on Human Relations
740 N. Sedgwick,
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 744-1088 (TDD)
(312) 744-1081 (FAX)