The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights released a resource to remind school communities that Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 protects students and employees from discrimination based on pregnancy and related conditions.
Protections for Students
Title IX protects students against harassment by school employees or other students because of their pregnancy and related conditions. Schools must treat pregnancy, childbirth, false pregnancy, termination of pregnancy, and recovery therefrom the same as any other temporary disability with respect to any hospital or medical benefit, service, plan, or policy for students. 34 C.F.R. § 106.40(b)(4). Schools must not discriminate against any student or exclude any student from their education program or activity, including any class or extracurricular activity, based on a student’s pregnancy, childbirth, false pregnancy, termination of pregnancy, or recovery therefrom. 34 C.F.R. § 106.40(b)(1).
Nondiscriminatory policies include providing leave to a student for pregnancy, childbirth, false pregnancy, termination of pregnancy, or recovery therefrom, for as long as the student’s physician deems medically necessary. After leave, the student must be reinstated to the status the student held when the leave began. 34 C.F.R. § 106.40(b)(5). That means a teacher may not refuse to allow a student to submit work after missing a deadline because of absences due to pregnancy or childbirth. Or, if a teacher’s grading is based in part on class attendance or participation, the student should be allowed to earn the missed credits and be reinstated to the student’s pre-leave status.
A school also must not discriminate against or exclude from employment any employee or employment applicant on these bases. 34 C.F.R. § 106.57(b). For employees, schools must treat pregnancy and the same related conditions, including termination of pregnancy, as well as any temporary disability resulting therefrom, as any other temporary disability for all job-related purposes, including employment-based medical, hospital, and other benefits. 34 C.F.R. § 106.57(c).
If a school does not have a leave policy, or if an employee has insufficient leave or accrued employment time to qualify for leave under the school’s policy, the school must treat pregnancy, childbirth, false pregnancy, termination of pregnancy, and recovery therefrom as a justification for a leave of absence without pay for a reasonable period. After that time, the employee must be reinstated to the employee’s pre-leave status or to a comparable position without reduction of compensation or loss of promotional opportunities or any other employment rights or privileges. 34 C.F.R. § 106.57(d). In addition, schools must treat pregnancy and the same related conditions and any temporary disability resulting therefrom as any other temporary disability for commencement, duration, and extensions of leave, payment of disability income, accrual of seniority and any other benefit or service, and reinstatement, along with other employment-based benefits. 34 C.F.R. § 106.57(c).
Filing a Complaint
Students, employees, or applicants for employment who believe they may have been discriminated against based on pregnancy or related conditions, including termination of pregnancy, may file a complaint through their school’s grievance procedures. Every school district and postsecondary institution covered by Title IX is required to prominently display – on its website and in student and employee handbooks and catalogs – contact information for the Title IX Coordinator, who is responsible for overseeing all Title IX complaints, including for discrimination based on pregnancy and related conditions. 34 C.F.R. § 106.8(b)(2).
Alternatively, anyone can file a complaint with OCR, including students, parents and guardians, employees, community members, and others who experience or observe discrimination in education programs or activities based on sex, including pregnancy and related conditions, as well as based on race, color, national origin, disability, and age. OCR complaints typically must be filed within 180 days of when the discrimination took place.