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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Youth at Work

Select any of the questions below to get quick answers to some common questions about pregnancy discrimination.

  1. What are some examples of harassment based on pregnancy?
  2. Can my employer fire me if I become temporarily unable to do my job because I am pregnant?
  3. Can my employer require me to take leave because I am pregnant?
  4. Can my employer require me to provide a doctor's note before giving me maternity leave?
  5. Are males protected from discrimination if they become fathers?
  6. Is it illegal for a pregnant woman to discriminate against or harass someone with a similar medical condition?
  7. Is it illegal for someone to discriminate against or harass certain pregnant women, but not others?
  8. Is it illegal to be discriminated against or harassed because of pregnancy and some other prohibited reason, like race or age?
  9. Can an employer discriminate against unmarried women who become pregnant?
  10. At an interview, can an employer ask me if I am or intend to become pregnant?
  11. Are any other rights available to pregnant employees?
  12. Can my employer punish me for reporting what I think is pregnancy discrimination?

What are some examples of harassment based on pregnancy?

Pregnancy harassment involves unwelcome conduct in the workplace that is related to pregnancy. The conduct may be physical, verbal, or written. The harasser can be male or female. The harasser can be your supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who does not work for your employer, such as a client or customer. Pregnancy harassment can include offensive or derogatory comments, jokes, gestures, graffiti, cartoons, or pictures related to pregnancy.


Can my employer fire me if I become temporarily unable to do my job because I am pregnant?

Your employer must treat you the same as any other temporarily disabled employee. For example, if your employer permits other temporarily disabled employees to change their work duties, perform different tasks, or take disability leave or unpaid leave, your employer must permit employees who are temporarily disabled because of pregnancy to do the same.


Can my employer require me to take leave because I am pregnant?

Employers must permit pregnant employees to work as long as they are able to perform their jobs. If you are absent from work because of a pregnancy-related condition and recover, your employer may not require you to remain on leave until the baby's birth. Your employer also may not have a rule that prohibits an employee from returning to work for a predetermined length of time after childbirth.


Can my employer require me to provide a doctor's note before giving me maternity leave?

Your employer may not single out pregnancy-related conditions for special procedures to determine an employee's ability to work. However, if your employer requires other employees to submit a doctor's statement concerning their inability to work before granting leave or paying sick benefits, your employer may require employees affected by pregnancy-related conditions to provide a similar note.


Are males protected from discrimination if they become fathers?

The laws enforced by EEOC do not prohibit discrimination based on parental status, although some state and local laws may. However, an employer generally may not treat male employees with children differently than it treats female employees with children. For example, an employer may not refuse to provide a male employee with time off to attend a child's school function when it regularly allows female employees time off for the same reason.

Male employees who are new fathers may have additional rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which provides certain employees up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave. For more information on the FMLA, which is enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor, see http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/benefits-leave/fmla.htm.


Is it illegal for a pregnant woman to discriminate against or harass someone with a similar medical condition?

Yes. It is illegal for someone to discriminate against or harass others with similar medical conditions. A pregnant woman may not discriminate against or harass another pregnant woman because of her medical condition.


Is it illegal for someone to discriminate against or harass certain pregnant women, but not others?

Yes. It is illegal for someone to discriminate against or harass a sub-set of a protected group. For example, a manager may not treat first-time mothers-to-be differently than pregnant women who already have children.


Is it illegal to be discriminated against or harassed because of pregnancy and some other prohibited reason, like race or age?

Yes. It is illegal to be discriminated against because of the combination of your pregnancy and some other protected category, like race or age. For example, it is illegal for a fast food chain to fire Native American women who become pregnant, or women who are forty or older who become pregnant.


Can an employer discriminate against unmarried women who become pregnant?

The laws enforced by EEOC do not prohibit discrimination based on marital status, although some state and local laws may. However, an employer generally may not treat unmarried women who become pregnant differently than it treats unmarried men who father children out of wedlock.


At an interview, can an employer ask me if I am or intend to become pregnant?

Federal law does not prohibit employers from asking you whether you are or intend to become pregnant. However, because such questions may indicate a possible intent to discriminate based on pregnancy, we recommend that employers avoid these types of questions.


Are any other rights available to pregnant employees?

Pregnant employees may have additional rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which provides certain employees up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave. For more information on the FMLA, which is enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor, see http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/benefits-leave/fmla.htm.


Can my employer punish me for reporting what I think is pregnancy discrimination?

No. It is illegal for your employer to punish you, treat you differently, or harass you because you report discrimination to someone at your company, to EEOC, or to your parents, your teacher, or another trusted adult. This is true even if it turns out that the conduct you complained about is not found to be discrimination. We refer to this as your right to be protected from retaliation.