Does My Employer Have to Let Me Take Pregnancy Leave?

December 2, 2019

When it comes to pregnancy, laws do protect your rights to be treated like other workers. You are allowed to take leave when needed. If your employer denies your request for pregnancy leave, it’s often against the law. Here’s what you need to know about the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act

While the Civil Rights Act of 1964 established protections for many people, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) wasn’t added until 1978. PDA laws prevent discrimination for current, past, or possible pregnancies. It also protects you if your pregnancy is causing a medical condition like pregnancy-related high blood pressure or gestational diabetes.

An employer cannot fire you for being pregnant. You cannot be denied a job or promotion based on your pregnancy or attempts to become pregnant. You’re also allowed to take extra breaks to go to the bathroom or pump breast milk. If you have doctor’s orders for light-duty or to temporarily avoid some job duties that endanger your fetus, your employer must accommodate those needs.

If you need to go on leave, you’re entitled to the same rights as any other worker when it comes to personal leave for a medical condition. If there is no policy requiring other workers to use up sick leave before claiming short-term disability or medical leave, your employer cannot make you abide by a rule of that nature.

You cannot be treated differently just because you’re pregnant. At the same time, a company cannot grant you special treatment if it’s not the same as other workers requesting leave for a medical condition. Special accommodations extended to you are the same that would be extended to any injured, sick, or disabled worker.

When it comes to pregnancy leave, you’re allowed to take off the same amount of time as another worker who needs temporarily disability or medical leave. Typically, maternity leave is 12 weeks per year with the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA). That leave is unpaid and only applies to companies with 50 or more employees.

One thing to remember about the PDA is that it only applies to businesses with 15 or more employees. If you’re in a small company with fewer than 15 workers, your employer is not obligated to follow the law. You may have protections under the FMLA or Americans with Disabilities Act, however.

Steps to Take if You’re Being Discriminated Against

What if you requested leave and your employer denied your request? What do you do then? Before you do anything, talk to your human resources department or refer to your employee handbook to see what the policies are for parental, medical, and short-term disability leave. This will help you determine how much time you’re entitled to.

If you’re certain your rights have been infringed upon, you’re well within your rights to file a discrimination complaint. You will file this complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). You typically have 180 calendar days from the moment you were discriminated against to the deadline for filing, though this does extend to 300 days if you work for a local or state agency. You’re not required to talk to a lawyer or secure legal representation, but it’s in your best interest to do so.

Before you file a complaint, have everything you need to back up your claim. Note dates, times, and names of people who refused your right to take maternity leave. Keep a list of people who witnessed the incident. Don’t leave your job. Continue to go to work and complete your work duties as best you can. This eliminates the risk of your employer saying you were fired for not completing your job. Keep records of your doctor’s notes regarding your need to go on leave. Finally, highlight policies that are in your employee handbook regarding leave.

Pregnancy discrimination laws can be hard for some to understand. If you hire a lawyer who specializes in pregnancy discrimination, you reduce your stress levels. You’re able to focus on what’s most important your health and time with your newborn. If possible, have the support of friends and family to help you handle the emotional distress discrimination can have. You don’t want to try to fight this alone.

Call Shegerian Conniff to learn more about laws regarding pregnancy leave. We’ll discuss your rights under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and make sure you receive fair treatment during and after your pregnancy. Consultations are free and available 24 hours a day.