Pregnancy Discrimination Claims


It happened to me: A Real Life Story



What is pregnancy discrimination and is there a law in GA that covers it?


There is no state specific law in GA under which a female employee can bring a claim of pregnancy discrimination. However, female employees in GA may bring a claim for pregnancy discrimination under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act provides that the language of Title VII includes discrimination because of or on the basis of pregnancy. This means that pregnant women are to be treated the same as non-pregnant people who are similar in their ability or inability to do work.



I think I was discriminated against because I was pregnant. How do I prove it?


An employee who wishes to bring a claim of pregnancy discrimination can do so in two ways; either with direct evidence or with circumstantial evidence.


If you bring a claim supported by direct evidence, the court will use a test originally presented in Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins. Once you have presented evidence establishing that your pregnancy was a motivating factor in the challenged employment action, your employer is then given an opportunity to show that they would have made the exact same employment decision even if you were not pregnant.


If you bring a claim supported by circumstantial evidence, the court applies a test originally presented in McDonnell Douglas Corp v. Green. The first step of the test is for you to produce evidence which allows you to advance your claim. Specifically, the evidence produced should include the following:
(1) that you are a member of a protected class or minority (e.g. that you are a pregnant woman);
(2) that you were qualified for the position held;
(3) that despite your qualifications, you were subjected to an adverse employment decision (see definition below); and
(4) that non pregnant employees were treated more favorably than you were.


Once you have provided the aforementioned evidence, your employer must then provide legitimate, non discriminatory reasons for their actions. Once this has happened, you must come forward with evidence which shows that the reasons the employer gave were not the real reasons for their actions. Under this test, it is always your responsibility to show that you were the victim of discrimination.



What is direct evidence?


Direct evidence will show that pregnancy was obviously the reason for the challenged employment action. Direct evidence can include statements by decision makers clearly showing that your pregnancy was a motivating factor in their employment decisions. Direct evidence may also include comments by an employer which reflect a discriminatory attitude or comments by individuals closely involved in employment decisions indicating the same. Direct evidence does not include random comments in the workplace, comments by coworkers/non decisions makers, or statements made unrelated to the discriminatory action.



What is an adverse employment action?


An adverse employment action is an ultimate decision made by your employer, such as firing or refusing to hire. Adverse employment actions can also include conduct that "alters the employee's compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment, deprives him or her of employment opportunities, or adversely affects his or her status as an employee."



What might my employer provide as legitimate, non discriminatory reasons for their actions?


When you bring a discrimination claim, the next step is for your employer to provide a legitimate non discriminatory reason for their actions. More specifically, your employer must provide specific evidence that shows that their actions were not based on any sort of discrimination. The legitimate reasons that an employer will provide will vary in each individual case. One example is a case where a woman claimed that she had suffered an adverse employment action because of her pregnancy. The court found that her failure to attempt to return to work after the birth of her baby, as well as her failure to obtain medical clearance to do so, were legitimate, non discriminatory reasons for her employer to fill her position with someone else.



Is my employer required to make special accommodations for pregnant employees?


The Pregnancy Discrimination Act does not require that an employer make special accommodations for its employees. The act only guarantees that pregnant employees are given the same opportunities and benefits as non pregnant women who are similarly limited in their ability to work. If your pregnancy prevents you from fulfilling your job responsibilities, your employer is not required to make any special accommodations.



Is my abortion or miscarriage covered under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act?


The basic intention of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act is to ensure that women affected by pregnancy and related conditions are treated the same as other employees on the basis of their ability or inability to work. Therefore, you are protected against such practices as being fired merely because you are pregnant or had an abortion. However, your employer is not required to pay for any health insurance benefits for your abortion, except if your life would be endangered if you carried the fetus to term or if medical complications arise as a result of the abortion.



Can my employer fire me or refuse to hire me because I may become pregnant?


No. Women are a protected class and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act makes it illegal for your employer to take any adverse action against you because you are or may become pregnant



If I want to bring a claim of pregnancy discrimination under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, does it matter how many employees my employer has?


The Pregnancy Discrimination Act requires companies employing 15 or more people to treat pregnant workers the same way they treat other workers who have medical disabilities and cannot work. If there are fewer than 15 employees, you are not able to bring this claim.



Can my employer require that I take maternity leave?


Mandatory maternity leave policies are unconstitutional. However, in recognizing that the ability of any pregnant woman to continue working past any fixed date is specific to every individual, employers are allowed to place employees on maternity leave based on that individual's circumstances.



Can I challenge my employer's maternity leave policy on the grounds that it is discriminatory?


Yes. If your employer has a leave policy "limiting" maternity leave to a certain amount of time, while still providing a leave of absence for an illness for an unlimited time, that maternity leave policy will be found discriminatory. An obviously discriminatory leave policy is considered to be direct evidence of unlawful discrimination on account of pregnancy.



When should I tell my employer I am pregnant?


Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, you must provide at least 30 days notice to your employer before you plan to take maternity leave.



For what amount of time can I take leave because of pregnancy?


Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, employers are required to give you up to 12 weeks of leave if you have worked for your employer for 12 months or for at least 1,250 hours. However, the FMLA only applies to employers who employ more than 50 employees. For more information about the FMLA, please see "Family Medical Leave Act" under the Federal Laws section.



What happens to my job while I am on pregnancy leave?


When you return from your pregnancy leave, under the Family and Medical Leave Act, you are entitled to your same position if it still exists or to another position if your position was eliminated. You also have the right to return to the same or equivalent position, pay, and benefits at the conclusion of your leave.


Is my employer required to pay me while I am on pregnancy leave?


No. Under the Family Medical Leave Act, employers are only required to provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave.



Is there a way for me to bring a pregnancy discrimination claim in GA under state law?


An individual can bring this type of claim under GA tort law. A tort, in its most basic sense, is a wrongful act that causes harm to another person. Specifically, if you want to bring a pregnancy discrimination under GA tort law, you will likely claim Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress. In order to state such a claim, you must show that your employer's behavior was so extreme or outrageous that no reasonable person could be expected to tolerate it. It is important to recognize that mere insults and annoyances do not rise to the level of extreme and outrageous.



Can I bring a claim for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress because I was fired?


GA law does not recognize wrongful discharge of an at will employee. An at-will employee is someone that can be terminated for any reason by their employer. This means that if your claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress arises out of your termination, your claim will be dismissed.



Legal Glossary

Return to Georgia Law Page

Return to Types of Discrimination

Return to States