Sexual harassment in the workplace has become a hot-button issue in many fields, including the federal sector. While workplace sexual harassment is currently the most widely discussed form of gender-based discrimination, two recent lawsuits have brought attention to one that is not as widely known: Pregnancy discrimination.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently filed lawsuits against two employers that it claims violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). The lawsuits are an example of the EEOC’s increased determination to enforce the PDA by pursuing civil action against employers that may have discriminated against pregnant employees.
Two important lawsuits
One lawsuit alleges that Pruitthealth, a private health care company, forced a female nurse to resign after her doctor restricted her from lifting more than 20 pounds due to her pregnancy. The second lawsuit claims that Simmons Security and Protective Services fired a female security guard shortly after she revealed that she was pregnant. These alleged actions violate the PDA, which forbids employers from discriminating against pregnant employees during any aspect of employment.
The EEOC has recently cracked down on alleged infractions of the PDA, filing several other lawsuits earlier this year and in 2017. The agency is intent on enforcing the act as interpreted in the 2015 case of Young vs. UPS. In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that employers are obligated to treat pregnant employees as they would treat employees who have medical restrictions due to conditions other than pregnancy.
What does this mean for federal employees?
Although these lawsuits target two private employers, the PDA applies to the federal sector as well. The judges’ rulings will have widespread ramifications for future cases of pregnancy discrimination throughout the United States. The outcome of these cases may set a precedent for how federal employers must treat female employees who are pregnant.
Federal employees are also protected by the PDA
Federal employees who experience pregnancy discrimination are protected by the PDA and have the right to pursue civil action against their employers. In many cases, lawsuits can hold employers accountable for their actions and recover compensation for employees. Whether in the private or public sector, no worker should have to experience discrimination based on her pregnancy.