The changes in the body that occur during pregnancy can significantly impact an employee’s ability to do their job. Despite federal and state protections for pregnant and lactating workers, discrimination against expecting mothers remains a problem in the workplace. If you are pregnant and employed, knowing your rights may allow you to keep your job and continue working without endangering your health.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) and Americans with Disabilities Act make it unlawful for employers to discriminate against workers because of their pregnancy, delivery, or related medical conditions. In addition, pregnant workers in California are entitled to a variety of workplace modifications under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).
Hiring and firing
An employer cannot force you to resign or take a leave of absence, nor can they refuse to recruit you because they assume you will be unable to perform your duties. Making excuses that prevent you from taking leaves or working from home, removing you from important assignments, or stalling your promotion are signs of discrimination.
The PDA does not consider pregnancy as a disability. However, pregnancy can cause complications that are enough to classify as a disability. If you are experiencing pregnancy-related conditions, you may request reasonable accommodations from your employer.
For example, using an ergonomic chair, being able to sit for the majority of your shift, or modifying your work schedule can all make a big difference. Employees with difficult pregnancies may seek work-from-home arrangements or be allowed to leave for medical appointments.
Mothers with complications due to pregnancy may take up to 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). However, they must first meet a number of conditions to qualify.
If you are unable to qualify, the state’s Pregnancy Disability law may allow you to take up to four months off without pay. You may also be eligible for paid family leave to help you rest and spend time with your newborn.
Your employer is legally required to treat your pregnancy like any other medical issue. Avoid conflicts by informing your employer in advance of the number of days you will be off from work. If they refuse to accommodate your requests or leave, you may consult with Schonbrun Seplow Harris Hoffman & Zeldes, LLP, for a case evaluation.