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Pregnant at Work? Know Your Rights

by Sharon Feldman
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Pregnancy rights in the workplace are crucial for ensuring that working mothers are supported and treated fairly. It’s so important that as a working mother or mother-to-be you know your legal rights.

By understanding these laws you can be empowered to advocate for yourself and make informed decisions. Keep reading to learn about pregnancy rights in the workplace and the legal protections available to working mothers.

pregnancy rights in the workplace

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Family and Medical Leave Act

The main federal law that supports working mothers is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). FMLA grants eligible employees the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child, or to care for their own or a family member’s serious health condition.

This allows mothers to prioritize the well-being of themselves and their children without fearing losing their job. To be eligible for FMLA, you must work at a company with at least 50 employees and must have completed at least 1,250 hours of work in the past year.

Some States Offer More Maternity Leave

To fully understand how much maternity leave you are allowed, you must look at your state’s laws. Some states provide paid maternity leave, some offer additional unpaid time, and others require pregnancies to be treated as temporary disabilities. Since employers already have policies in place that allow paid leave for disabilities, they can use this disability insurance to cover maternity leave.

For example, California provides an additional eight weeks of paid leave. Paid leave does not provide full pay, but it is around 60-70% of your wages.

Pregnancy Discrimination Act

Another federal law that was established in 1978 is the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). This amendment to the Civil Rights Act makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against women based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical reasons.

This act ensures that pregnant employees receive fair treatment and protection from any form of retaliation due to their pregnancy or the need for prenatal care. Examples of retaliation include being demoted, fired, or decreased pay due to pregnancy.

Requesting Accommodations

Accommodations during pregnancy are another essential part of workplace rights. Expectant mothers may require adjustments to ensure their well-being and the healthy development of their babies.

Employers are obligated to provide “reasonable accommodations”, which means any accommodation that will not cause “undue hardship” on the business. These accommodations can include modifications to workstations, access to private spaces for pumping breast milk, or more frequent breaks for medical appointments.

New Law: Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

A brand new law called the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) goes into effect June 27, 2023. This act is aimed at helping ensure pregnant and postpartum employees can get the accommodations they need.

While accommodations have always been allegedly available to pregnant workers, some employees have been required to identify similarly accommodated employees to get what they needed. Because of the phrasing of “undue hardship”, accommodation requests were too subjective and not protected by law.

This new law will help pregnant employees stay safe and healthy while they work, and will apply to companies with at least 15 employees.

Communication is Key

Clear and effective communication between employees and employers plays a vital role in navigating pregnancy rights in the workplace. It is important to have open and honest conversations about your pregnancy, due dates, and any specific needs you may have.

By proactively discussing your situation with your employer, you can work collaboratively to find solutions that accommodate your needs.

Flexibility is increasingly recognized as a valuable part of a supportive work environment for working mothers. Many employers understand the importance of work-life balance and are willing to explore flexible work arrangements. These can include options such as telecommuting, adjusted work hours, or job sharing.

By embracing flexibility, both employees and employers can foster an environment that values the well-being of working mothers and facilitates their professional success.

Know Your Rights

To fully exercise pregnancy rights, it’s important to be aware of any additional local or state-specific laws that may provide additional protections. Legal regulations can vary, and it is good to research and understand the specific rights granted within your state.

Consulting with legal professionals can offer further guidance and clarity on your rights and ensure that you are equipped with the necessary knowledge to navigate pregnancy in the workplace successfully. If you ever feel that you are being discriminated against due to your pregnancy status, schedule a free consultation with an employment lawyer.

Understanding and exercising pregnancy rights in the workplace is fundamental to creating a supportive environment for working mothers.

The laws mentioned above provide the foundation for fair treatment and accommodation during this transformative time. By fostering effective communication, embracing flexibility, and being informed of your rights, you can navigate pregnancy in the workplace with confidence and ensure a balanced work-life journey for yourself and your family.

Author

  • Sharon Feldman

    Sharon Feldman is a health, safety, and legal writer based in San Diego. When not writing, she can be found at the beach with her dog.

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