As an expectant mother, your needs and priorities will inevitably shift towards the arrival of your new baby. One significant aspect to consider is how your pregnancy will affect your work life. Missing work due to pregnancy, either for prenatal appointments or health complications, can lead to concerns about job security.
The legal requirements surrounding pregnancy-related responsibilities and absences can be confusing for many women, so read on to gain a better understanding of your rights as a pregnant employee.
Understanding the Pregnancy Discrimination Act
Since the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) was enacted in 1978, employers have been prohibited from discriminating against employees on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or other related medical conditions. However, some employers may not be aware of the specifics of the PDA and may inadvertently violate the law.
Under the PDA, pregnant employees must be treated in the same manner as non-pregnant employees who have similar limitations or disabilities. This means that employers must make reasonable accommodations, such as allowing for more frequent breaks, light-duty assignments, or time off for prenatal appointments or complications. If an employer fails to make reasonable accommodations, it may be considered a form of discrimination.
Understanding FMLA Leave
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave per year for specific family or medical reasons, such as the birth of a child or a serious health condition. Pregnant employees who meet the eligibility criteria can take FMLA leave.
Under FMLA, eligible employees must be reinstated to their same position or equivalent upon returning to work. It is important to note that FMLA leave is unpaid unless the employee has paid time off available.
Understanding State and Local Laws
In addition to federal laws like the PDA and FMLA, some states and local municipalities have enacted their own pregnancy-related leave laws. These laws may provide additional protections or benefits beyond the federal standards.
For example, California’s Pregnancy Disability Leave Law provides up to four months of job-protected leave for pregnant employees due to pregnancy, childbirth, or other related medical conditions. New York’s Pregnant Workers Fairness Act mandates employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with pregnancy-related conditions.
What to Do If You’re Fired Because of Pregnancy
If you believe you were terminated from your job because of your pregnancy-related absences, it is important to speak with a qualified legal professional right away. Discrimination on the basis of pregnancy is illegal, and employers who unlawfully terminate a pregnant employee may be held liable for damages.
In cases where an employer’s actions were particularly egregious, you may be entitled to back pay, front pay, and compensation for emotional distress. To determine whether you have a viable case, seek guidance from an experienced employment law attorney who can advise you on your legal options.
Tips for Protecting Your Rights During Pregnancy
The following tips can help you protect your rights during pregnancy:
Know your rights: Review state and federal laws that apply to pregnant employees, so you are aware of the protections and benefits available to you.
Communicate with your employer: It is critical to communicate with your employer when you need time off for prenatal appointments or have pregnancy-related complications. You should also discuss potential accommodations that may enable you to continue working throughout your pregnancy.
Keep detailed records: It is essential to document your interactions with your employer. This includes keeping copies of emails, meeting minutes, and other relevant correspondence.
Seek legal guidance: If you believe your employer has violated your rights, seek guidance from an experienced employment law attorney who can help you understand your legal options.
Missing work due to pregnancy should not result in job loss or discrimination, as pregnant workers are protected by federal and state laws.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act provide critical protections for pregnant employees, while some states have enacted further protections.
If you believe that your employer has violated your rights, contact an experienced employment law attorney to explore your options. By knowing your rights and taking proactive steps to protect them, you can continue to work and care for your health and your baby.