Don’t base hiring decisions on applicants’ childbirth plans

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in Hiring,Human Resources,Maternity Leave Laws

Issue: Who qualifies for protection under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA)?

Risk: Many supervisors mistakenly believe that women must be pregnant to be covered under PDA. Not true.

Action: Instruct supervisors not to refuse a job or promotion due to a woman's potential, or plans, to become pregnant.

Contrary to popular belief, the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) covers more than just pregnant women. It also protects women from job discrimination if they suffer from pregnancy-related conditions or based on their potential to become pregnant.

Explain to hiring managers that they can't refuse to hire pregnant women simply because of their pregnancy or because they're concerned that the women may become pregnant during their employment. It's the employer's responsibility to manage schedule changes due to an employee's pregnancy, just as you would for any employee who has a temporary disability.

Also, remind hiring managers that asking female applicants (or female employees) about their childbirth plans is a major legal "no-no."

Case in point: A nurse resigned after suffering medical complications from pregnancy. After recovering, she twice reapplied but wasn't rehired.

She filed a PDA lawsuit, claiming the employer didn't rehire her because it feared scheduling problems if she became pregnant again. As evidence, she said a supervisor asked whether she planned to have more children.

The employer argued that PDA didn't apply because she wasn't pregnant. But a federal appeals court said it didn't matter whether she was pregnant at the time she sued because PDA also bans discrimination against a woman because of her "capacity to become pregnant." (Kocak v. Community Health Partners of Ohio, No. 03-4650, 6th Cir., 2005)

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