Pregnancy bias law doesn’t guarantee leave for child care

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) says it’s unlawful to discriminate against applicants and employees “on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions.”

But the PDA doesn’t grant pregnant workers any special, additional rights to time off for child care.

Unless the mother has FMLA or other leave available, the PDA makes no requirement for an employer to accommodate her child care needs.

Recent case: Heather Seibert had a spotty attendance record because of bouts with depression. She took FMLA leave to get treatment and, after her return, began taking intermittent FMLA leave for more treatment. She eventually used up all of her 12 weeks of FMLA leave.

After she became pregnant with twins, the company warned Seibert that continuing to miss work would be a problem. However, once the babies were born, she continued to miss work, usually when one or both twins were sick.

The company told her she could resign or be fired for absenteeism. Seibert chose to resign.

Then she sued, alleging the company violated the PDA when it refused to let her care for the newborns when they needed her. She argued that she had been singled out and forced to use vacation time to care for the children.

Result: She lost. The court said the PDA didn’t cover post-pregnancy leave for child care or illnesses. Without FMLA or other sick time, she was out of luck until she earned more. (Seibert v. Lutron Electronics, No. 10-1091, 3rd Cir.)

Final note: Seibert also couldn’t claim she had suffered discrimination because of a disability. The court concluded that her depression was periodic and temporary and, therefore, not a disability under the ADA.

For more advice on complying with the PDA, go to the EEOC page for that topic, www.EEOC.gov/laws/statutes/pregnancy.cfm.

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