Discrimination for Pregnancy or Termination Is Prohibited

Title IX perhaps is best known for opening athletic and educational opportunities for females. That federal law, particularly in the last few decades, has also received considerable attention for its regulations regarding sex-based discrimination and harassment on school campuses.

Less known are the Title IX protections against pregnancy discrimination.

Despite the Supreme Court’s June 2022 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overturned Roe v. Wade, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), has reminded educational institutions that Title IX continues to protect students and employees based on pregnancy and related conditions, including the termination of pregnancy.

Title IX Protections for Pregnancy-Related Conditions

In October 2022, OCR released a resource, Discrimination Based on Pregnancy and Related Conditions.

The document outlined conditions that are protected under Title IX for students, faculty, and staff:

  • Pregnancy
  • Child Birth
  • False Pregnancy
  • Termination of Pregnancy
  • Recovery from a Pregnancy-Related Condition

Pregnancy protections have been in place since 1975 when the regulations implementing Title IX were first issued following congressional review.

Discrimination and Exclusion

Title IX regulations prohibit schools from discriminating against or excluding from educational programs, activities, or employment any student or employee because of a pregnancy-related condition. Pregnancy-related discrimination against employee applicants is also prohibited.

The 1975 Title IX statute states Title IX shall not “require or prohibit any person, or public or private entity, to provide or pay for any benefit or service, including the use of facilities, related to an abortion,” or “to permit a penalty to be imposed on any person or individual because such person or individual is seeking or has received any benefit or service related to a legal abortion.”

Medical Benefits and Services

Pregnancy conditions must be treated in the same way as any other temporary disability when determining eligibility for medical or hospital benefit, service, plan, or policy” for students or employees. In addition, pregnancy conditions must be treated the same as other temporary disabilities for job-related issues such as disability income, accrual of seniority, and other employee benefits.

Leave Policy

Regardless of a school’s leave policy for students, it must allow the student to stay out of classes and other programs without penalty for as long as the student’s physician deems it medically necessary. Upon their return, the student must be reinstated to the status they previously held. For employees, if the school has no paid-leave policy (or the employee does not qualify to access it), the school must provide an unpaid leave of absence for a reasonable period of time. When the employee returns to work, they must be given the same or comparable position without any loss of pay, promotion opportunities, or rights/privileges.

Proposed Rule Change Would Enhance Pregnancy Protections

The Biden administration released proposed rule changes in June 2022. The comment period on the proposal has closed, and the final rule is expected in 2023.

As it stands, the proposed rule includes the following:

  • Update the definitions of “pregnancy or related conditions” and “parental status”
  • Bar discrimination for admission or employment on the basis of current, potential, or past pregnancy conditions (including lactation and termination of pregnancy)
  • Refine the obligations of schools and colleges to provide modifications for students and employees experiencing pregnancy-related conditions
  • Require schools to connect a pregnancy or parenting student with the Title IX coordinator to explain their Title IX rights and offer resources

Strategic Defense Against Title IX Accusations

Title IX rules and regulations are shifting. If you are accused of violating any aspect of this federal law, you need an attorney with specific experience in Title IX. You need Parisi, Coan & Saccocio, PLLC. Title IX defense is our focus. Our thorough understanding of Title IX law and school processes has benefited clients from coast to coast.

Contact our team if you are facing a Title IX investigation. Reach us online or call (737) 200-2332.