Pregnant Workers Rights
Under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, pregnant individuals or those who are likely to become pregnant cannot be fired or discriminated against. This means that it is illegal for you to be fired, not hired or promoted, and denied work due to a pregnancy-related issue. This means you can’t be fired even if you need time off or can’t do a task because of your pregnancy.
Pregnancy discrimination is far too common in the US. Only 12 states have laws on paid maternity leave. In addition to the poor compensation mothers receive from the government, pregnant women have little protection from pregnancy discrimination.
How The Family and Medical Leave Act Protects Pregnant Workers
Any employer with 15 or more employees cannot discriminate or harass pregnant individuals. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), any workplace in the US with 50 employees or more must comply with this law along with their own state laws.
The FMLA requires employers to pay their pregnant employees at least 12 weeks of unpaid leave. As long as an employee has worked for the company for at least 12 months, they qualify for the FMLA pregnancy benefits. The leave can be used for any pregnancy-related absence including childbirth.
During this 12 week period, your job cannot be given away. Many employers will constitute this time of leave as a “no call no show” if you cannot come into work due to your pregnancy. If your employer attempts to wrongfully fire you for a no call no show, speak with your HR representative or an employment lawyer.
States With Paid Maternity Leave
Currently in 2020, only 12 states have laws on paid maternity leave or family leave:
- District of Columbia (as of July 1, 2020)
- New Jersey
- Rhode Island
- New York
Each state has different regulations on legal protections and compensation. All states clearly state that new mothers and caregivers have time to bond and care for their newborns for a limited period of time.
Also Read: What Is Workers Compensation?
Examples of Pregnancy Discrimination
Pregnancy discrimination is incredibly common for many women. If you’re working while pregnant or currently looking for a job while pregnant, an employer cannot discriminate against you or your pregnancy. This includes, but is not limited to:
Firing a pregnant employee
If you are pregnant or may become pregnant, your employer cannot fire you for anything pregnancy-related. In accordance with the FMLA, employers cannot discriminate against you by replacing you while you’re on leave.
Your employer may hire someone to fill your position temporarily. However, your job is safe and ready for you upon your return.
Refusing to hire a pregnant employee
Employers who refuse to hire women based on a pregnancy or the assumption that an employee may become pregnant is discrimination. However, if you are hired by an employer while you’re pregnant, you do not qualify for the FMLA benefits. Employees must work for at least 12 months before they qualify for the FMLA benefits. If your employer has their own employee benefits with maternity leave, you can use that if you qualify.
Refusing to make reasonable adjustments
There are limited things pregnant women can do. Limiting yourself while you work protects both you and your baby, and are normally required by your doctor. The further along in your pregnancy, the more your job will need to change temporarily.
Your employer cannot refuse to comply with these changes and put both yours and your baby’s life at risk. These must be reasonable requests often made through your HR department. This can include allowing an employee to sit over stand to changing the schedule if the pregnant employee experiences morning sickness.
Changing employee expectations
Similarly with reasonable adjustments, pregnant women may become slower or less attentive at a certain point in their pregnancy. This should only be temporary, but employers should be understanding.
For example, an employer might adjust your expectations to lessen how many tasks you get done in a day. Another common adjustment is allowing pregnant employees to opt-out of highly dangerous or laborious jobs.
Pregnant women are harassed by both employers and coworkers. Harassment includes discriminating, insulting, or intimidating pregnant employees. A common example is a coworker who makes inappropriate comments or jokes about pumping breast milk while on shift. Harassment also includes making comments about any work adjustments recently made for the pregnancy. Although many would argue that these are just light-hearted jokes, they create a hostile and stressful work environment for the pregnant employee.
What To Do About Pregnancy Discrimination
Take notes on all the instances where you felt your rights were violated, or you were harassed because of your pregnancy. Bring these issues up with your HR department, and speak to them about possible solutions.
If you’re pregnant and have experienced any of these, you should get a lawyer. Stop letting your boss and coworkers violate your rights. Be proactive and call a lawyer to protect your legal rights.
Also Read: 7 Red Flags You Should Sue Your Bad Employer