Your Workplace Rights During Your Baby’s First Year
Having a baby changes a lot of things in your life, but it doesn’t change your rights in the workplace. If you’re aware of what you’re entitled to, you can continue working in a way that is beneficial for both you and your employer. Here are a few things to keep in mind when going back to work after having a baby:
- The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may entitle you to 12 weeks of leave to take care of your newborn baby, providing you’ve worked for your employer for at least 12 months, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
- Your 12 weeks of leave can be used any time within the first year of your child’s birth, so don’t feel pressured to take it all at once—you may want to reserve some weeks for unanticipated time you’ll need off sometime later in the year.
- Each state has a different law regarding breastfeeding in the workplace. Though it’s a personal decision that varies according to the job you do, you may want to know what your options are, so do some research into what your state’s law is.
- A potential employer is not allowed to take your new mom status into account when making hiring and firing decisions. If you’re able to effectively perform the job, there’s no reason for it to be taken into consideration.
We spoke to one woman, who doesn't wish to disclose her name for legal reasons, who had a bad experience with an employer that didn't understand this. “In my interview, they asked me a number of questions about the fact that I was a single mom, and then hired someone else. I was more than qualified for the job I was applying for, and it was poor practice for them to have seemed so put-off just because I had a child.” Employers interviewing you cannot ask you about your childcare plans (our source also faced this issue) or make decisions because of the answers you give. If you’re asked a question you feel is unethical in an interview, politely explain that you don’t feel comfortable answering it because it’s not relevant to the job you’re applying for.
- Single mothers have the same rights as married mothers in the workplace.
As long as you’re in the know when it comes to your entitlements and rights, you should be able to have a successful time at work, even right after having a baby. Don’t be afraid to contact the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission if you feel you aren't being treated properly. You can call them at 1-800-669-4000.
Do you have any experience with working in your baby’s first year? Was it more or less difficult than you expected? What’s your advice for other new moms?