There are few things more wonderful than bringing a child into this world. America, unfortunately, doesn’t make it easy for working people who want to start or grow their family. We continue to lag behind the rest of the developed world when it comes to guaranteeing paid maternity leave and providing other benefits to help new parents while they’re away from work. In addition, pregnancy discrimination is still a major issue in our country.
It’s no secret that employers are not always 100 percent supportive, understanding or accommodating when it comes to pregnancy, childbirth and time off from work. The good news is that the U.S. has enacted legislation designed to prevent pregnancy discrimination in all its forms.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 forbids “discrimination based on pregnancy when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, such as leave and health insurance, and any other term or condition of employment.”
That means if you have ever been fired because you were pregnant, or about to have a baby, your employer broke the law.
What Constitutes Pregnancy Discrimination
Even though the law is clearly on the side of mothers-to-be, many employers out there are still not up to speed on this issue. Some are unaware of the rights afforded to pregnant women, but there are indeed people who will just blatantly try to get away with pregnancy discrimination.
As a refresher for employers, mothers-to-be, or potential future moms, here are some of the main laws regarding pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.
- You can’t be fired because you’re pregnant
- Your pregnancy must be treated the same as other employee disabilities or conditions
- It’s illegal for a company to not hire you because you’re pregnant (or because you might become pregnant)
- If you have a pregnancy-related condition, you might be entitled to special accommodation (you may be switched to light duty, or assigned a different task, etc.)
- If you can still perform your job functions, your employer can’t force you to take time off or change jobs (It’s up to you and your doctor to determine if something’s OK for you to do)
These are just some of the main laws in place to protect against pregnancy discrimination. There are different rules, regulations and protections depending on the size of the company and how long you’ve been employed. You can learn about more rights afforded to pregnant women in the workplace here and here.
Family and Medical Leave
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which applies only if you work for a company with 50 or more employees, is another measure of job protection for those having a baby. The act requires employers to give employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave (with benefits) to care for a new child. FMLA laws do vary by state, however, so be sure to do your research to know your rights.
Pregnancy Discrimination Still Exists, But You Have Recourse
There’s no doubt we have come a long way in this country regarding pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, but it still happens. You have rights, the law is on your side, and you have a voice. If you feel you have been discriminated against, you can always file a complaint with the EEOC.
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