(This article first appeared in the September/October 2018 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)
By Research & Education Department Director Joyce B. Robinson
Pregnancy discrimination exists in many agencies nationwide, including the Postal Service. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978 amends Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and prohibits sex discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Pregnancy is considered a temporary disability in the eyes of the law, meaning the treatment of pregnant employees falls under the same jurisdiction as disabled employees.
USPS Employee Relations Manual (ELM) and the PDA
In March of 2017, the Postal Service revised the Employee Relations Manual (ELM), 672.1.b. to come into compliance with the PDA. If an employee is temporarily unable to perform her job due to pregnancy, she must be treated the same as any other temporarily disabled employee by providing light duty, modified tasks, alternative assignments, disability leave, and/or leave without pay. The PDA also forbids discrimination based on pregnancy when it comes to job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, fringe benefits, firing, and requires employers to provide reasonable break time and a private place for mothers breast-feeding their babies to provide milk.
Pregnancy and Maternity Leave
Pregnant employees must be permitted to work as long as they are able to perform their jobs. If an employee has been absent from work as a result of a pregnancy related condition and recovers, her employer may not require her to remain on leave until the baby’s birth. Nor may an employer have a rule that prohibits an employee from returning to work for a predetermined length of time after childbirth.
Other Protections Under the PDA
An employer may not fire a pregnant employee for being absent if her absence is covered by the employer’s sick leave policy; may not require employees limited by pregnancy or related medical conditions to first exhaust their sick leave before using other types of leave and must allow an employee who is temporarily disabled due to pregnancy to take leave without pay as with other illnesses.
What About Health Insurance?
Any health insurance provided by an employer must cover expenses for pregnancy related conditions on the same basis as expenses for other medical conditions. The PDA specifies, however, that insurance coverage for expenses arising from abortion is not required, except where the life of the mother is endangered or medical complications arise from an abortion. Pregnancy related expenses should be reimbursed in the same manner as those incurred for other medical conditions, whether payment is on a fixed basis or a percentage of reasonable and customary charge basis. The amounts payable by the insurance provider can be limited only to the same extent as costs for other conditions. No additional or larger deductible can be imposed.
What to Do if You are a Victim of Pregnancy Discrimination
If you feel that you are a victim of pregnancy discrimination you could take the following actions:
• Write down what happened – Record the date, time, and place of the incident and include what was said and identify witnesses. Keep a copy of these notes at home.
• Contact your union representative – File a grievance within 14 days of the incident citing a violation of Article 2, Article 13, Article 19, and Article 30.
• Keep copies of job evaluations – Keep records at home of all evaluations that show that you do a good job at work. Your supervisor may criticize your job performance later in order to defend the discrimination.
• File a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (EEOC) – A pregnancy discrimination charge must be filed within 45 days of the discriminatory action in order to preserve your legal rights. ■
Sources: Pregnancy Discrimination Act, US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, APWU/ USPS Collective Bargaining Agreement, and the USPS Employee and Labor Relations Manual.