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Claim Your Free Copy of Top 100 FLSA Overtime Q&As

We’ve compiled a list of the 100 most commonly asked questions we have received on the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime regulations.
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This report, "Top 100 FLSA Q&As", is designed to provide you with an examination of the federal FLSA overtime regulations in Q&A format, including valuable tips for bringing your workplace into compliance in an affordable manner.

At the end of the report, you will find a list of state resources on wage and hour issues. This report includes practical advice on topics such as:
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November 14, 2006
Pregnancy Discrimination Complaints Growing Significantly

Although it's been nearly 3 decades since the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) was enacted, pregnancy discrimination complaints have increased significantly in recent years.

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The National Partnership for Women & Families (www.nationalpartnership.org) found that pregnancy discrimination complaints filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) jumped 39 percent from fiscal year 1992 to 2003, even though the nation's birthrate dropped by 9 percent during the same time frame. More recent EEOC statistics show that 4,730 pregnancy discrimination charges were filed in 2005, compared with 3,385 in 1992 and 4,649 in 2003.

The jump is at least partly attributable to an increasing number of women who continue to work during pregnancy and who work longer into their pregnancies, according to a 2003 analysis by the National Partnership.

Chad Shultz, a partner with labor and employment law firm Ford & Harrison ( www.fordharrison.com ) in Atlanta, says heightened awareness of employees' rights under the PDA and "plaintiffs' lawyers who are being more proactive--for whatever reason"--about pursuing such cases are also likely contributors to this emerging litigation trend. "I certainly don't think employers are discriminating against women more," he says.

Protected Class

The PDA, which was enacted in 1978 as an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibits employers with at least 15 employees from discriminating on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

Generally, that means employers must treat women who are affected by pregnancy and related conditions the same as other applicants or employees on the basis of their ability or inability to work. For example, an employer can't fire or refuse to hire or promote a woman because she is pregnant as long as she can perform the major functions of her job.

Shultz also recommends that employers carefully consider any plans to change an employee's job duties because she is pregnant. For example, in a manufacturing setting, an employer might want to move a pregnant employee into another area to avoid potential exposure to health risks, such as toxic chemicals. However, if the move hampers the employee's career advancement or eligibility for bonuses, she may claim that the practice is discriminatory, Shultz says.

"As an employer, you never want to be making medical decisions. You always want to leave that to a doctor," Shultz says. He recommends that employers obtain a doctor's written consent for a pregnant employee to perform her job duties and work in a potentially hazardous environment, but only if a similar requirement is consistently enforced for employees with other medical issues.

Consistent Policies

HR professionals can take steps to minimize the risk of pregnancy discrimination claims being filed. Shultz identifies three factors that courts generally consider when determining whether a pregnant employee has been discriminated against: "whether they are qualified for the position, whether they suffered an adverse effect on their employment, and whether they suffered because the employer has different application of the rules for pregnancy than for other medical issues."

Consistent application of policies--not only among all pregnant employees, but also among employees with other medical conditions--is key to preventing claims of pregnancy discrimination, according to Shultz .

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