The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 is a United States federal statue that amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to "prohibit sex discrimination on the basis of pregnancy."
Abolishing discrimination against pregnancy
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 established that employers could not discriminate employees, among other reasons, "because of sex" or "on the basis of sex."
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act essentially amended that law so that any reference of discrimination "because of sex" or "on the basis of sex" should also include, but not be limited to "because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions."
It also stated that women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes, including receipt of benefits under fringe benefit programs, as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work.
Employers are exempt from providing medical coverage for elective abortions, unless the mother's life is threatened, but are required to provide disability and sick leave for women who are recovering from an abortion.
A recent example
In March 2015, the United States Supreme Court made a decision on a case - Young vs. United Parcel Service - that's specifically based on the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
Ms. Young was a driver for UPS when she became pregnant. During her pregnancy, she could no longer lift the 70-pound requirement. And UPS denied her request for a 20-pound lifting limit during her pregnancy. Because Ms. Young could not longer lift the 70-pound requirement, UPS wouldn't let her work.
Ms. Young provided evidence that a number of employees received accommodations while suffering similar or more serious disabilities. According to the testimony of one UPS employee, the only time a light duty request seemed to become an issue occurred when the request was made by a pregnant employee.
The Court held that a pregnant employee can make a prima facie, meaning a plausible case of discrimination, by showing that "she belongs to the protected class, that she sought accommodation, that the employer did not accommodate her. The Court further held that a plaintiff can meet a summary judgement standard "by providing evidence that the employer accommodates a large percentage of nonpregnant workers while failing to accommodate a large percentage of pregnant workers."