Working while Pregnant: Know Your Rights

In today’s world, many women can’t afford to lose their jobs because of a pregnancy. Fortunately, there are federal and state laws in force which help ensure that pregnant women are treated fairly in the workplace.

The Civil rights Act of 1964 made it illegal to discriminate against women based on pregnancy or any of the medical conditions which accompany it. The Family and Medical Leave Act expanded these protections by guaranteeing women up to twelve weeks of leave (though not necessarily paid leave) for childbirth.

It’s important to note that pregnancy, childbirth and taking care of your child in the weeks following birth are all generally seen as foreseeable needs. Because of this, you’re required to give 30 days’ notice when you request leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act unless you are dealing with a pregnancy-related condition which you could not have reasonably forseen.

These laws ensure that women will still have their job-or an equivalent one-with their employers when they return from maternity leave. In most cases, your employer is obligated by law to maintain your position for you for the 12 weeks covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act. When you return, they can offer you a different position instead of the one you had previously as long as:

  • Your pay is not cut
  • Your general working conditions are not significantly changed (i.e., they could offer you a different desk job than the one you had before but can’t ask you to accept a position as an aircraft mechanic if you had been a transcriptionist)
  • Your level of seniority is not affected
  • Your status in the company is not negatively affected (i.e., they could move you from one assistant manager position to another, but can’t make you transition from being a manager to being the janitor).

Exceptions to the Rules

Unfortunately, these laws don’t apply equally to all companies or situations. There are a number of conditions under which your job may not be fully protected. If you work for a company with fewer than 50 employees, they are not required to keep your job for you, though many will if you communicate openly with them. Another instance in which your company is not required to offer you a job is if your company undergoes a downsizing while you are on medical leave and your former job is no longer available (i.e., if you would have lost your job anyway).

How long do you plan to take off for the birth of your child? When do you plan to start?

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