Under Federal law, pregnancy is a protected medical condition. Employers cannot legally discriminate against a worker who is, has been or hopes to become pregnant. However, the unfortunate reality is that many companies will do everything they can to push pregnant workers out of jobs. There are many reasons why companies may engage in this kind of behavior.
Pregnancy usually involves expenses and the addition of a new child dependent to an insurance policy pool. For the company, it can result in weeks or months of missed work. Since the business should allow the worker to return to the same position, that could mean hiring and training someone just for a temporary position. Making a worker feel like she has to quit can be a more cost-effective option, which is why some companies violate the law and the rights of pregnant workers.
Healthy women during a pregnancy can often do many of the same things as their peers, at least for the first half of the pregnancy. After a certain point, however, limitations on lifting or standing can impact someone’s ability to remain in the same job.
Thankfully, simple accommodations can make it easy for pregnant women to stay healthy and stay at work. A stool or chair can help someone who has to stand for long hours. Reallocation of lifting and similar work is also a simple enough accommodation.
Some women have more restrictions than others during pregnancy, due to pre-existing medical conditions or those acquired during pregnancy, like gestational diabetes. A note from a doctor outlining limits should be all that a company needs to help make work safer for a pregnant employee. Many refuse to accommodate the needs of workers, forcing them to work in dangerous positions or leave their jobs.
While the United States does not mandate paid maternity leave, it does mandate unpaid leave. That may include medical leave prior to the birth of the child, if a doctor orders bed rest. After a birth, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 often applies. A new parent has the right of up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave following the birth of a child, so long as the mother worked for the company for 12 months previously and the company has at least 50 employees.
If your employer refuses to allow maternity leave that you should qualify for under law, you may feel like you have to choose between supporting your family and bonding with your child. In cases where employers discriminate against pregnant workers, it may become necessary for those workers to stand up for their rights in court.