Pregnancy Discrimination

Pregnant workers have rights! In 1978, the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect pregnant workers from discrimination. The Vermont Fair Employment Practices Act also bans sex discrimination which has been interpreted by courts to include pregnancy.

What that means:

  • An employer can’t fire you or cut your hours when they learn that you are pregnant.
  • You have the right to keep working as long as you can still do your job.
  • You have the right to be free from harassment at work because you are pregnant.
  • You cannot be asked about your pregnancy or plans to have children in a job interview.
  • An employer can’t treat you differently from other workers just because you are pregnant or have had a miscarriage.

If you have a “pregnancy-related condition”, you may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation. “Pregnancy-related condition” is defined as “a limitation of an employee’s ability to perform the functions of a job caused by pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth.” You can’t be denied an accommodation that would be granted to an employee who needed an accommodation for a work-related injury or disability. An employer can refuse to grant an accommodation only if it would pose an undue hardship on the employer.

Additionally, both federal and Vermont laws give some employees the right to take unpaid family leave for the birth or adoption of a child. Vermont law protects employees who need to take parental leave as long as their employers have at least 10 employees. Federal law only covers employers with 50 or more employees.

Rights of Nursing Parents in the Workplace

Since 2008, Vermont law has provided support for nursing parents when they return to the workplace. Best practices for employers include providing a clean, private place with access to electric outlets and a chair for nursing parents to use. Whenever possible, a nursing parent should be offered flexible breaks. With some exceptions, nursing parents have the right, by law, for three years after the birth of a child:

  • To have reasonable time, either compensated or uncompensated, throughout the day for the employee to express breast milk.
  • To have an appropriate private space that is not a bathroom stall, to express milk.

In March 2010, Congress extended similar federal protections to some nursing mothers in the workplace. Congress amended Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA) to include a federal right to express breast milk in the workplace for up to year after childbirth. Nursing mothers covered by Section 7 also have the right to express milk in a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public. They also have the right to be paid for such breaks if the employer pays for employees for other types of work breaks. There are some limited exceptions to this federal right, such as cases where providing a break would present an undue hardship to employers with fewer than 50 employees. The FLSA does not replace Vermont’s more generous breastfeeding law, but instead provides many employees with a second layer of legal protection.


The rights guaranteed by law including.

  • the right to be free from pregnancy discrimination
  • the right to reasonable accommodations for pregnancy-related conditions
  • the right to express milk at work

would have little value if an employer could retaliate against an employee who exercised their rights or opposed the employer when their rights were denied. Fortunately, when drafting these laws, the legislatures anticipated this problem and made retaliation illegal.

Contact Us if You Experience Pregnancy Discrimination

The Vermont Employee Rights Group can help you achieve justice if you have been subjected to pregnancy discrimination, denied a reasonable accommodation for a pregnancy-related condition, or denied the right to express milk at work. Call us at 833.365.2929 or fill out this online form for an initial consultation.

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