Denver Pregnancy Discrimination Attorney
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Discrimination in Colorado
Having a baby can be one of the most wonderful times of your life. But if you’re pregnant or nursing and trying to juggle new parenthood and your career, facing discrimination at work can be devastating. Fortunately, both federal and Colorado state laws prohibit pregnancy and nursing discrimination.
Federal and State Law Prohibit Pregnancy Discrimination
In Colorado, a combination of federal and state laws work to protect employees from discrimination based on pregnancy or physical conditions related to pregnancy. However, Colorado’s laws apply more broadly to all employers with one or more employees. Federal discrimination laws apply more narrowly to employers with 15 or more employees.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1963 prohibits discrimination “on the basis of sex.” The law prohibits employers from discriminating regarding compensation, terms of employment, raises, or privileges of employment on the basis of sex. In 1973, Congress expanded Title VII’s discrimination prohibitions by including the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The PDA prohibits employers from discriminating “on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.” See 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq. (1991).
- The Family Medical Leave Act
Under the Family Medical Leave Act, a new parent may be entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job protected leave to care for a new child. It also requires that the employee’s group health benefits be maintained during the leave. The employee must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months, with at least 1,250 hours worked in the past 12 months, before taking the leave. The FMLA applies to employers with 50 or more employees within 75 miles.
- The Americans with Disabilities Act
While pregnancy alone isn’t considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), if an employee becomes temporarily unable to perform their job due to a pregnancy-related medical condition, the ADA mayapply. Employers may have to make reasonable accommodations under the ADA, such aslight-duty or modified schedules, for pregnancy-related health conditions.
According to the Colorado Supreme Court, Colorado statutes prohibiting gender discrimination in the workplace also prohibit pregnancy discrimination. The Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination by employers based on sex. In Civil Rights Comm’n v. Travelers Ins. Co., the Colorado Supreme Court determined that Colorado’s statutes prohibiting gender discrimination in the workplace also prohibit discrimination against pregnant employees. See 759 P.2d 1358 (Colo. 1988).
The Colorado Pregnant Workers Fairness Act goes further than the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, requiring employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees such as providing things like light-duty, alternative assignments to hazardous jobs, or providing limitations on lifting.
Federal and State Law Prohibit Nursing Discrimination
Both federal and Colorado law also prohibit discrimination against breastfeeding parents and mandate that employers provide reasonable break time, space, and accommodation for expressing milk.
Several federal laws combine to protect breastfeeding mothers in the workplace, including:
- The Break Time for Nursing Mothers Law: This law is part of the Fair Labor Standards Act, modified by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and
- The Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
Under these federal laws, breastfeeding employees in every state may have the right to break time, space, and other accommodations at work to pump breastmilk. These laws apply to employers nationwide who have 15 or more employees.
Colorado law also requires employers to provide break time and space for nursing mothers, make reasonable accommodations for breastfeeding, and prohibits discrimination against nursing employees.
- Break Time and Space
Under Colorado law, employers must provide reasonable unpaid break times or allow employees to use their paid breaks to express breast milk for up to two years after birth. Colorado employers must also make a reasonable effort to provide a private space that is not a toilet stall, near the employee for expressing milk. See Colo. Rev. State. § 8-13.5.104 (2016). However, if compliance with the space requirement would cause undue hardship for the employer, they may be excused. See Colo. Rev. Stat. § 8-13.5.103 (2016). The Colorado law is broader in application than federal law and applies to all employers with one or more employees. See id.
- Reasonable Accommodations
Colorado law also requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees recovering from pregnancy, childbirth, or any related health conditions. See Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-34-402.3(1)(a)(l) (2020). Reasonable accommodations include things like longer break periods, light-duty, and temporary transfers from hazardous work. See Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-34-402.3(4)(a) (2020). This law also applies to any Colorado employer with one or more employees, unless your employer can demonstrate that the accommodations would cause an undue hardship.
- No Discrimination
According to the Colorado Supreme Court, Colorado statutes prohibiting gender discrimination in the workplace also prohibit discrimination against breastfeeding or lactating employees. See Civil Rights Comm’n v. Travelers Ins. Co., 759 P.2d 1358 (Colo. 1988).
There are time limits for filing pregnancy and breastfeeding discrimination complaints under both federal and state law, so you should consult an attorney as soon as possible to ensure that you preserve your rights. Moreover, an attorney can also help determine whether you should file with the Colorado Civil Rights Division or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
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