Pregnancy Rights In The Workplace
While you're pregnant, it’s important to be aware of your rights as a working woman, whether you’re trying to get a job or keep your existing one. It can be difficult knowing what is and isn’t appropriate, and sometimes employers themselves won’t know, so make sure you do! Here are some important things to keep in mind when tackling your working situation during pregnancy.
It can be intimidating to break the news of your pregnancy to your employer and co-workers. It’s best to start by knowing your rights.
- The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) prevents employers of companies with more than 15 employees from discriminating against you based on your pregnancy, whether it’s related to hiring, firing, pay scale, promotions, layoffs, benefits, training, or pretty much any other term or condition of employment. Always be aware of that!
- If you’re searching for jobs while pregnant, don’t make your pregnancy a focus. For example, a cover letter does not need to disclose that you are pregnant, though employers cannot discriminate you based on it. Keep employers focused on your skill sets and what you can offer them—not your pregnancy. At the same time, being honest will create trust between you and a potential employer, so avoid being overly secretive.
- Any health insurance your employer provides must cover pregnancy-related expenses in the same way it covers other medical conditions, with the exception of abortion (unless the mother’s life is at risk).
- As long as you’re able to perform your job effectively, your employer cannot force you to take leave because you are pregnant.
- If your pregnancy advances to where you can no longer work properly, you can take part of your maternity leave before you give birth, thanks to the Family and Medical Leave Act; however, there are some requirements under the FMLA: You have to have worked at least 1,250 hours for the employer during the 12-month period IMMEDIATELY preceding your departure, and the place where you work is under an employer that has at least 50 employees within 75 miles. This is according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
- Your 12 weeks of leave can be used any time within the first year of your child’s birth—you don’t have to take it all during pregnancy.
- Pregnancy rights can vary between states, so gather as much information as you can about the state you live in.
- Single mothers have the same pregnancy rights as those who are married.
If you feel like your employer is not respecting your rights in the workplace, make sure you keep a written record of individual events and situations. Talking to your employer may solve the situation. But if not, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will listen to the issues you’re having and help you file a Charge of Discrimination. Unfortunately, you can't file a Charge of Discrimination online, but you can contact them at 1-800-669-4000.
If you want to find out more information about what a Charge of Discrimination is, or if you have other questions about setting things straight concerning the discrimination, go to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website.
Have you had any particularly positive or negative experiences when it comes to your employer respecting your workplace rights while you were pregnant, or after giving birth?