Pregnancy Rights at Work: What You Need to Know

Pregnancy Rights at Work: What You Need to Know
Pregnancy rights at work protect millions of women in the workforce every year in Florida and across the United States. There are powerful pregnancy laws in place to ensure the rights of women who are pregnant, have been pregnant, or may become pregnant.

Do you believe you have been harassed or discriminated against in the workplace? Getting the correct information about pregnancy rights at work will help you understand whether you may have a case against your employer — and what can be done to hold them accountable for violations of the law.

About Pregnancy Laws and Your Workplace Rights

If your employer has 15 employers or more, you are protected against pregnancy-based discrimination and harassment at work under federal and state pregnancy laws.

Federal Government Laws

Several federal government laws address pregnancy rights at work.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) has detailed language that requires a business to treat pregnant women who may become pregnant the same as other employees or job applicants with similar abilities and limitations. This includes all phases of the hiring process and all work areas such as interviewing, hiring, training, scheduling, benefits, promotions, etc.

Meaning that you cannot be discriminated against, or they can be held liable, facing penalties, potential damages, and other possible resolutions to pregnancy discrimination cases. In general, if you are pregnant, were pregnant, could become pregnant, intend to become pregnant, or have a medical condition that is related to pregnancy, the employer cannot take the following actions based on your pregnancy:

  • Fired from your job
  • Rejected for a job
  • Rejected for a promotion
  • Given lesser assignments or a demotion
  • Forced to take leave

Although your employer does not have to keep you in a certain role if you are unable to perform your duties or if staying in the role would place a significant safety risk to others, they are not allowed to remove you from that job if they believe that what you are doing would be risky for either your pregnancy or you.

You are also protected against harassment under the PDA, including verbal harassment such as repeated use of offensive language or physical harassment such as inappropriate touching.

Accommodations at work are also possible under federal law to allow you to perform your job safely. These may include:

  • Altered break and work schedules, including
  • Permission to sit or stand
  • Ergonomic office furniture
  • Shift changes
  • Elimination of marginal job functions
  • Reductions in workload
  • Permission to work from home

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also protects against discrimination, including accommodations if you have a medical condition related to pregnancy. Some examples include cervical insufficiency, preeclampsia, anemia, depression, or gestational diabetes. Understand that your pregnancy rights at work are quite comprehensive and that a medical condition, according to the ADA, does not have to be severe or permanent to be considered “substantially limiting.”

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) also covers certain pregnancy rights at work, protecting your job while taking time off while pregnant or after the birth of a child. Under the parameters of the FMLA, the company must have 50 employees or more, and you need to have worked there for at least 12 months to qualify for protection/benefits.

State of Florida Law

The Florida Civil Rights Act (FCRA) is a state law that also prohibits discrimination. Like the PDA, the FCRA includes workers at companies with 15 or more employees. The FCRA secures protection against discrimination due to “race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, handicap, or marital status.”

Your Pregnancy Rights at Work and COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted workplaces in Florida and across the country. During this unprecedented time, it is understandable to be concerned about pregnancy rights at work.

The first thing to understand is that federal and state laws continue to offer protections for millions of workers. With the concerns of COVID-19, if you have a pregnancy-related impairment or disability, this may place you at greater risk. Under the ADA, you may be able to request accommodations like those listed above, as well as request changes in the workplace to reduce your contact with others, temporarily transfer positions, or request telework. Social distancing and personal protective equipment (PPE) may also be requested.

If providing accommodations imposes an “undue hardship” on employers, they may not be required to comply. An employment law attorney can advise you on your rights regarding accommodations.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also has guidance for employers to keep their workers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as

  • providing hand sanitizer when running water and soap are not available,
  • encouraging workers to stay home when sick, and
  • other workplace controls for preventative measures, including PPE

OSHA’s policies are considered guidance only, though, and employers are not required under law to follow them.

If you need to use some or all the 12 weeks provided under FMLA due to COVID-19, you may still be able to take time off with job protection after you have your baby. You may also be able to apply for temporary disability insurance.

In general, pregnancy rights at work continue through the pandemic. Each situation is different, depending on your circumstances and company policies at your workplace. If your hours have been cut due to COVID-19, you may have a case of discrimination.

When to Contact a Pregnancy Discrimination Attorney

If you believe you have been discriminated against or harassed at work, you may have a case.

Contact an attorney if you believe you have been:

  • Fired from your job because you were pregnant
  • Refused a promotion because you were pregnant or intended to get pregnant
  • Not given reasonable accommodations due to a medical condition related to your pregnancy
  • Not hired because you were pregnant
  • Harassed verbally or physically because you were pregnant
  • Other discriminatory acts by your employer due to pregnancy

Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A. is the employee’s law firm. We fight hard for workers when they have been discriminated against or harassed and have extensive experience and expertise working with pregnancy laws.

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