Arizona employers are now expressly prohibited by state law from discriminating against employees on the basis of pregnancy or childbirth. On January 28, 2021, the Arizona Legislature passed, and on Thursday, February 4, 2021, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed into law, HB 2045, which amends the state civil rights statute to clarify that existing statutory prohibitions on sex-based discrimination also preclude discrimination on the basis of pregnancy and childbirth. Accordingly, Arizona becomes the 28th state to preclude pregnancy discrimination expressly under state law.
Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 41-1461, et seq. already prohibits discrimination by covered employers (i.e., employers that employ fifteen (15) or more employees) “because of sex” or “on the basis of sex.” Following the passage of HB 2045, the Arizona Civil Rights Act (ACRA) – Arizona’s state civil rights statute – now expressly states that its prohibition on discrimination “because of sex” and “on the basis of sex” includes discrimination “because of or on the basis of pregnancy or childbirth or related medical conditions.” The ACRA also now expressly provides that “[w]omen who are affected by pregnancy or childbirth or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes, including receipt of benefits under fringe benefit programs, as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work[.]”
Arizona employers subject to the ACRA likely already prohibit pregnancy-based discrimination in their employment policies and in practice because, as employers with 15 or more employees, they already are subject to the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which expressly prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions. In addition to mirroring federal law substantively, the ACRA’s expansion permits the Arizona Civil Rights Division (ACRD), the state civil rights agency acting under the auspices of the state Attorney General, to investigate charges of pregnancy discrimination, which the agency previously lacked jurisdiction to do. Now, Arizona employees can file charges of pregnancy discrimination just as they would file a charge of discrimination for any of the other reasons set forth in the civil rights statute (e.g., race, color, national origin, religion, age, genetic condition, or disability) and pursue state law civil actions alleging pregnancy discrimination upon completion of the ACRD’s investigation. Notwithstanding this expansion, employees still retain the right to file a charge with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) under the parallel federal law. This statutory development simply provides another avenue for investigation and resolution of pregnancy-related discrimination allegations under Arizona law.