OCR Issues New Guidance Document on Pregnancy Discrimination 

The Office for Civil Rights, the enforcement arm of the U.S. Department of Education, just released a guidance document for avoiding discrimination involving pregnancy and related conditions under Title IX. While this resource was published for “schools and students,” it has explanations of the law that all employers may find helpful.

The guidance document notes three areas where an employer might engage in discrimination against a pregnant woman. This article explains each of these three areas, as well as state-level legal protections for pregnant employees.

1. Pregnancy Discrimination and Exclusion

Title IX prohibits discrimination of the basis of sex in any education program or activity receiving financial assistance from the federal government. OCR makes clear that a recipient cannot discriminate against an individual on the basis of “pregnancy, childbirth, false pregnancy, termination of pregnancy, or recovery therefrom.” This means they cannot discriminate or exclude an employee or applicant from their institution or program on these grounds.

2. Medical and Other Benefits and Services 

Title IX also directs schools (and employers) to treat pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions similar to any other “temporary disability” regarding medical benefits, services, plans, or policies.” 

3. Leave Policy

OCR states that employers should have a clear leave policy for individuals with pregnancies and related conditions. 

State Protections for Pregnant Employees

Title IX offers some protections for pregnant employees. However, they are not the only protections. The State of California also provides pregnant employees with certain rights. 

Pregnancy Discrimination 

California’s Pregnancy Discrimination Act prevents employers from firing an employee on the basis of pregnancy. It also precludes discrimination due to childbirth, pregnancy, or recovery. 

Pregnancy Leave

The California Pregnancy Disability Act entitles pregnant employees to up to four months of unpaid leave during pregnancy. A pregnant employee may be eligible for leave due any pregnancy-related conditions, including morning sickness, postpartum depression, and complications.


The California Fair Employment and Housing Act and the California Fair Labor Standards Act require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees. A pregnant employee may need accommodation if they can no longer perform job-related duties. Or, they may need accommodations such as lactation breaks to allow the employee to pump breast milk. 

Employers cannot terminate or retaliate against pregnant employees for requesting accommodations.

Damages Available in Pregnancy Discrimination Cases

If your employer discriminated against you on the basis of your pregnancy, you have rights. Depending on your employer, you can submit a complaint to OCR, the Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC), or the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. You can also initiate a lawsuit against your employer to recover damages.

You might be entitled to recover compensation for your:

  • Lost income
  • Emotional Distress
  • Attorney fees and court costs
  • Punitive damages

An experienced employment lawyer can help you evaluate the merits of your case and determine what damages you might be entitled to.

Contact Our Employment Lawyers for Help With Your Case

Pregnant women have strong employment law protections at the federal and state level. If you are a victim of workplace discrimination, you should seek immediate legal help. Employment law cases depend on strong evidence. Evidence is strongest when it’s fresh and when witnesses are present and can recall memories about the event(s) in question.

We have years of experience fighting for wronged employees. We’ve helped countless workers hold their employers responsible for unlawful discrimination. Our employment law attorneys can help you understand your rights and options after experiencing on-the-job discrimination.