Know Your Rights: Working While Pregnant
- Pregnancy shouldn't stop you from working if you don't want to or cannot financially do so.
- You have rights & protections to keep you working as long as you feel safe and well during pregnancy.
- Balancing work & your personal life shouldn't be stressful, & we have some great advice for you to stay informed & empowered if you choose to work while pregnant!
These times have been challenging for many new parents, especially mothers who are working to provide for their family. Whether you have health complications or aim to remain healthy while working, you may have the right to request accommodations for your pregnancy at work as an expecting mother. At Pickles & Ice Cream Georgia®, we want you to know your rights & feel empowered to talk with your employer about your growing bump!
Protections from Discrimination
If you feel that your employer is treating you unfairly because you are pregnant, it could be illegal under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (a law that applies to workplaces with 15 or more employees). Contact your human resources (HR) representative if you believe that you have been discriminated against and to assist you with any accommodation request. When you become pregnant, you should know a few things like:
- Your boss CANNOT cut your hours or fire you when they find out that you’re pregnant.
- You may also be able to request a temporary job change, or an accommodation, if your boss accommodates others who are unable to work. Employers are not required to provide job changes unless they have accommodated other non-pregnant workers in the past.
Here are some things to start thinking about and get information on before you talk with your employer.
- Brainstorm the kinds of changes you may need. Talk with your doctor to see how that might look at your job.
- Look around to see if any other coworkers who were injured on the job or disabled have been accommodated before. Sometimes it’s helpful to ask your coworkers for help in navigating your workplace needs and see how your employer can accommodate if they have done so for others.
When you do get around to talking with your boss about your pregnancy and your plans to continue working, try to do the following:
- Stress to your boss that you are willing and able to keep working, but just need a minor change.
- If your boss requires a note from your doctor to confirm your medical need, make sure that the doctor’s note is as specific as possible and outlines exactly what you can and cannot do at work.
Is Pregnancy Considered a Disability?
Although pregnancy, by itself, is not considered a “disability,” some conditions of pregnancy may be disabilities, such as preeclampsia or gestational diabetes. If your job has 15 or more employees and you have a qualifying condition, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects you against discrimination and provides reasonable accommodations to allow you to keep working unless it would be too expensive or difficult to do so.
For example, under the ADA, your boss CANNOT refuse to give you small changes at work that you need to stay healthy and safe, like enhanced protective gear, temporary relief from heavy lifting, or a stool to sit on during your shift. Even though your boss may not provide your first choice, the ADA allows you to have a conversation with your employer about possible job changes or light duty that might be available as long as it’s not too expensive or difficult for your employer to accommodate. Always document, document, document your conversations and any accommodations!
Rights to Leave
If you are not able to find an accommodation at your job or if you need to take maternity leave, you may be able to request leave to stay healthy under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
The FMLA allows you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off per year to care for yourself or your new baby without losing your job or your health benefits. You may be able to take this leave if you work for the government or a company with 50 or more employees (within 75 miles of main worksite if there are multiple sites), have worked at least 1 year at your job, and have worked at least 1,250 hours in the year before taking leave. If you need to visit the doctor for prenatal appointments or other medical emergencies, you may use this leave a little at a time, not just all at once.
Maternity Leave Checklist
If you are covered under the FMLA, you will need to request leave 30 days in advance of taking off for childbirth. Remember that if you need accommodations at work, you may need to tell your boss sooner. Go through our checklist below:
- Before letting your employer know, it’s good to look for any policies about pregnancy and parental leave. If you can’t find any policies, you can ask your manager or HR for them.
- Let your boss know that you plan to return to work after you have recovered and bonded with your child. While you are recovering, your boss may move around your duties or find a temporary worker to do your tasks. However, it is ILLEGAL under the FMLA for your job to refuse to return you to your job or a similar one once your leave is complete.
- You can mention that you are a breadwinner (or primary earner) for your family, and your household depends on your paycheck, so coming back from leave is important to you and your family.
- Listen carefully and take notes during your conversation, particularly if anything sounds confusing or like a red flag to you. Again, document, document, document!
You have the right to be pregnant and continue the work you need to do for yourself and your family. We encourage you to stay safe and as healthy as possible when you are working, and to always ask for help if you need help understanding your rights in the workplace! Visit A Better Balance at www.abetterbalance.org/get-help to contact our free & confidential legal helpline if you need assistance. Call and leave a message at 1-833-NEED-ABB (1-833-633-3222).
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Written by Kameron Dawson
Staff Attorney at A Better Balance Southern Office