Pregnancy Discrimination Act Law and Legal Definition

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) is a federal legislation that prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of pregnancy. PDA was enacted in the year 1978. It is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Act was enacted pursuant to the momentum gained from the 1976 Supreme Court decision in General Elec. Co. v. Gilbert, 429 U.S. 125 (U.S. 1976). In Gilbert, the Supreme Court found that pregnancy was not a disease but rather a condition which could be exempted from the insurance plan. By 1977, women occupied about 45% of the employment class but only 25% of the insurance plans allowed sick leave for pregnancy related illness. Many feminist and civil rights activists revolted to this situation. They started campaigns to end discrimination against pregnant employees and to seek legislative relief from the Gilbert decision. As a result, legislation was introduced to amend Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and overrule the Gilbert decision. And, the PDA was passed in 1978.

PDA prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. The Act covers all employers having at least 15 or more than 15 employees. PDA states that:

a. Pregnant women or women affected by pregnancy related conditions must be treated in the same manner as any other employee.

b. If a pregnant employee is unable to perform her duties because of pregnancy, her disability is to be treated on the same basis as any other disability.

c. Pregnant and non pregnant women should be treated alike, both in terms of benefits received and all other aspects.

Additionally, the PDA prohibits discrimination against pregnant women in different areas of employment such as hiring, firing, seniority rights, job security, and receipt of fringe benefits.

Protections offered by the PDA extend to: pregnant women, women intending to become pregnant, and to women undergoing abortions.