HR Support on Pregnancy & Maternity Rights at Work

Editor's Note: Take care to consider all laws and benefits regarding pregnancy.

Melissa S. BurdorfOverview: Employers need to consider many laws and benefits when an employee discloses she is pregnant. Applicable laws include the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and state law(s). Other important considerations are employer policies, legally required benefits such as short-term disability (STD) or paid leave insurance, and any collective bargaining agreements that may provide for paid leave.

Employers must be careful not to discriminate against pregnant employees or fail to accommodate pregnant employees when applicable. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating against female employees or job applicants based on pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. As a result, employers may not refuse to hire an applicant because she discloses she is pregnant or fire an employee because she is pregnant. In the leave context, employers must look at requests for maternity leave or leave before the birth of a child for medical conditions under the same terms and conditions it applies to employees with other types of medical conditions.

Also, when disciplining or terminating pregnant employees or employees out on job protected FMLA leave, employers must make sure that their decision to discipline or terminate is not motivated by the employee's pregnancy or maternity leave. Documentation backing up the reason for discipline or termination is critical.

Trends: Some states, such as California and New Jersey, provide paid leave benefits to employees out on maternity leave.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act has been introduced in the US Senate. This law, if passed, would supplement the PDA by requiring employers to reasonably accommodate pregnant employees or job applicants, as well as those limited by childbirth or related medical conditions, unless the employer could show that it caused an undue hardship such as a significant difficulty or expense. This is similar to the accommodation requirement under the ADA. Employers would also be prohibited from making an unfavorable employment decision based on pregnancy or the taking of leave for pregnancy-related reasons.

A number of states and cities, including California, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York City, Philadelphia and West Virginia, have taken matters into their own hands by passing laws requiring employers to reasonably accommodate pregnant employees.  

Author: Melissa S. Burdorf, JD, Legal Editor

Latest items in Maternity and Pregnancy

  • Pregnancy Accommodation Handbook Statement: Illinois

    Type:
    Employee Handbooks

    Illinois employers should include this statement in their handbook to educate employees about the availability of reasonable accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth and related conditions and to demonstrate compliance with Illinois law.

  • Pregnancy Accommodation Handbook Statement: Minnesota

    Type:
    Employee Handbooks

    Minnesota employers that have 21 or more employees in at least one site of employment and seek to inform employees of the availability of reasonable accommodations for health conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.

  • Pregnancy and Parenting Leave Handbook Statement [21-49 Employees]: Minnesota

    Type:
    Employee Handbooks

    Minnesota employers that employ 21 or more employees in at least one work site, but fewer than 50 employees overall, and that seek to inform employees about the availability of pregnancy and parenting leave should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.

  • Pregnancy and Parenting Leave Handbook Statement [50+ Employees]: Minnesota

    Type:
    Employee Handbooks

    Minnesota employers that employ 21 or more employees at a single site, employ 50 or more employees overall and seek to inform employees about the availability of pregnancy and parenting leave should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.

  • Parental and Family Medical Leave Handbook Statement: Rhode Island

    Type:
    Employee Handbooks

    Rhode Island employers with 50 or more employees seeking to inform employees about their rights and obligations under the Rhode Island Parental and Family Medical Leave Act (RIPFMLA) and to demonstrate compliance with the law should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.

  • Family And Medical Leave Handbook Statement: Connecticut

    Type:
    Employee Handbooks

    Connecticut employers that have 75 or more employees working in Connecticut are covered by the Connecticut Family and Medical Leave Act (CFMLA) and should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.

  • Pregnancy Disability Leave/Request for Temporary Transfer Handbook Statement: Connecticut

    Type:
    Employee Handbooks

    Connecticut employers with three or more employees and seeking to inform their them that they must provide all pregnant employees with a reasonable leave of absence because of a disability related to pregnancy should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.

  • Family and Medical Leave Handbook Statement (25-49 Employees): Oregon

    Type:
    Employee Handbooks

    Oregon employers with 25 or more employees in Oregon during each work day in 20 or more calendar workweeks in either the calendar year in which the leave will be taken or the preceding calendar year are covered by the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA) and should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.

  • Family and Medical Leave Handbook Statement [50+ Employees]: Oregon

    Type:
    Employee Handbooks

    Oregon employers with 25 or more employees in Oregon during each work day in 20 or more calendar workweeks in either the calendar year in which the leave will be taken or the preceding calendar year, are covered by the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA) and should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.

  • FMLA: Alabama

    Type:
    Employment Law Manual

    In-depth review of the spectrum of Alabama employment law requirements HR must follow with respect to FMLA.