Congratulations! You have just learned you are pregnant. I wish you the very best! But I’m sure you have questions about how this could impact your job.
As a mom, I know your focus will be on your health and the health of your baby. As a professional woman, let me also share with you that I understand your commitment to your job, and all the hard work you put into gaining the trust of your supervisors. There is no doubt you can be a great mom-to-be (and then a mom) and a successful employee. You are a great employee, and while your pregnancy will rock your world in more ways than you know, the news that you are pregnant will also rock the world of your employer.
Employers Get Scared Too
They put time into training you, and you’re an asset to the company.
But they may also wonder if you require time off? Will you leave? Will you return to work? And when you return, will you be on board? A demonstrated commitment to your work during your pregnancy can certainly ease their fears.
I am describing questions most employers ask themselves even though they know the law- an employer cannot discriminate against you because you are pregnant.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act makes that clear. The Americans with Disabilities Act and Family & Medical Leave Act (referred to as the FMLA) also comes into play. The important thing to remember is that you cannot be treated any differently than any other employee with a medical condition or need for leave.
Pregnancy Leave Under FMLA
If you are pregnant, check to see if you are covered under the FMLA.
- Are you employed by an employer with at least 50 employees?
- Have you worked for the employer for at least 1 year working at least 1250 hours?
If you can answer yes to both questions, the FMLA provides for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for your own health condition (including incapacity due to pregnancy), prenatal care, for your own serious health condition after delivery, and to care for your baby.
Although the law requires that an employer must give covered employees general notice of your rights, many do not.
Even if you are not covered by the FMLA (and in addition to your rights under the FMLA), you will want to know if the company offers (in addition to or in cases where there is no FMLA coverage) leave for medical conditions. Leave of absence policies are generally described in most employee handbooks. Ask your Human Resources office for information. You probably know of other employees taking leave for medical conditions- particularly for non-pregnancy related conditions- which is pretty clear evidence that a leave is available.
Americans with Disabilities Act
Even if your employer does not have a formal leave program, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires that your employer consider requests for accommodations for a disability. Not every pregnancy or delivery will qualify as a “disability” but knowing that there are legal protections out there should you find yourself in a difficult pregnancy, will certainly ease your anxiety, and allow you to focus on your health and your job.
I sincerely hope your pregnancy is a healthy one for you and your child.
If you believe you have been discriminated against because of your pregnancy, before or after delivery, please let us know. At Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A., we represent hardworking mothers who have been the victim of pregnancy discrimination.
Best of luck,
Donna V. Smith