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Pregnancy in the Workplace: A Mother's Rights

Navigating the workplace during pregnancy can be a challenging journey. It's a pivotal time when expectant mothers need to understand their rights to ensure they are treated fairly and respectfully. Awareness of these rights is crucial for peace of mind and maintaining one's health and well-being during pregnancy.

Here’s a closer look at pregnant employees' essential rights and protections.

Legal Protections for Pregnant Employees

The primary legislation protecting pregnant employees in the United States is the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978. This law prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. It applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments.

Under the PDA, an employer cannot deny a job to a woman due to her pregnancy, treat her differently from other temporarily disabled employees, or force her to take leave if she is willing and able to work.

Additionally, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year for various family and medical reasons, including childbirth. This applies to all public agencies, all public and private elementary and secondary schools, and companies with over 50 employees.

Reasonable Accommodations

Pregnant employees also have the right to reasonable accommodations in the workplace, similar to those provided to employees with disabilities. This might include frequent breaks, permission to sit or stand as needed, ergonomic office equipment, and temporary transfer to less strenuous or hazardous work.

Employers must provide these accommodations unless doing so would result in undue hardship to the business.

Health Insurance and Benefits

Under the PDA, if an employer provides health insurance, it must cover expenses for pregnancy and related conditions on the same basis as costs for other medical conditions. Employers cannot reduce pregnancy-related benefits for employees participating in a company health plan.

Furthermore, any benefits, leave or pay provided to temporarily disabled employees must also be provided to pregnant women. If an employer provides benefits to workers on leave, the same benefits must be provided for those on leave due to pregnancy or childbirth.

Protection Against Harassment

Pregnant employees are also protected from harassment. This includes offensive comments about pregnancy or related conditions. If the harassment is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile work environment or results in adverse employment decisions, it may qualify as illegal harassment.

Steps to Take if Your Rights are Violated

If you believe your rights as a pregnant employee have been violated, there are several steps you can take:

  1. Document Everything: Keep detailed records of any discrimination or harassment, including dates, times, locations, and the names of those involved.
  2. Report the Issue: Speak to your HR department or a supervisor. If your workplace has a procedure for filing complaints, follow it.
  3. Seek Legal Advice: Consult an attorney who specializes in employment law if you feel your rights are being infringed upon. They can provide guidance on proceedings, including filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) if necessary.

Path Forward

Understanding and exercising your rights during pregnancy is essential for your health, peace of mind, and the well-being of your unborn child. Employers must recognize and respect these rights, ensuring pregnant employees receive fair and equal treatment.

For any legal assistance, reach out to Nichols Kaster PLLP today at (877) 344-4628 to get started.

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