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Are there protections for pregnant employees?

On Behalf of | Aug 2, 2023 | Discrimination

Are you pregnant or planning to become pregnant and wondering about your rights in the workplace? If so, you should know that there are federal and Colorado laws that protect you from discrimination, harassment and retaliation based on your pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act

The PDA is a federal law that prohibits employers from discriminating against employees or applicants on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. The PDA applies to employers with 15 or more employees and covers all aspects of employment, such as hiring, firing, promotion, pay, benefits, training and leave.

Employers must treat their pregnant employees the same as other employees when the pregnant employee and non-pregnant employees have similar ability or inability to work. This means that employers must provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees who need them to perform their essential job functions, unless doing so would cause an undue hardship to the employer. Examples of reasonable accommodations may include modifying work schedules, providing more frequent breaks, allowing telework or providing alternative assignments.

The Colorado Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

The CPWFA is a state law that expands the protections of the PDA to cover all employers in Colorado, regardless of their size. The CPWFA also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees for any health condition related to pregnancy or the physical recovery from childbirth.

The CPWFA also prohibits employers from forcing pregnant employees to take leave if they can be reasonably accommodated. The CPWFA defines undue hardship as an action requiring significant difficulty or expense to the employer, considering factors such as the nature and cost of the accommodation, the employer’s financial resources, the size and location of the employer’s business and the impact of the accommodation on the employer’s operations.

How to file a claim

If you believe that your employer has violated your rights under the PDA or the CPWFA, you have several options to file a claim. You can file a charge of discrimination with the Colorado Civil Rights Division or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

You can also file a lawsuit in court under the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, which is a state law that prohibits discrimination based on various protected classes, including pregnancy. You may be entitled to remedies such as back pay, front pay, reinstatement, compensatory damages, punitive damages and attorney’s fees.