Finding out you are pregnant is both a joyful moment and one that brings a lot of complications. Balancing work and family can be a challenge, and it often continues to be as a new mom. Thankfully, reasonable accommodations for pregnancy and the FMLA provide rights for pregnant employees in the United States. It’s important to know about these rights to avoid discrimination and have pregnancy-related needs met in the workplace. Below are some of those rights, so that you don’t fall victim to an unscrupulous employer.
Pregnant employee rights under the FMLA
One of the strongest rights that you have in the US is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which ensures that you are able to take time off from work during pregnancy or after giving birth for certain reasons. A few examples are prenatal care or for a significant medical condition of the mom after childbirth.
You are allowed to take up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave to care for a newborn or even a family member if it meets the set guidelines. This time is unpaid, but it offers job protection. In other words, the employer must keep your position for you to return to when the time off ends.
There might be pressure from an employer to quit if you are pregnant. For example, they may ask you to handle things that they know you can’t do due to being pregnant. Or, they may make the workplace uncomfortable by cutting your hours or changing your work schedule. This is retaliation and is also illegal.
Make sure that you don’t sign anything like an employee separation agreement. HKM Employment Attorneys provide advice on separation agreements and should be consulted before you sign any paperwork. That is because if you quit or even get laid off, this document covers your employer since you are essentially signing away the right to take them to court.
Reasonable accommodation requests
You have the right to continue to work and then take off the 12 weeks allotted to you by the Family Leave Act. In the meantime, you also have the right to ask for reasonable accommodations to be made for you to be able to work safely.
It could be that you are not asked to lift anything heavy or do any kind of work that would be out of the normal duties that you would need to exert yourself to do. You can also ask for things like an ergonomic chair to help you work pain-free while your body changes.
Even your schedule should be accommodated if you are not asking for dramatic changes. For instance, suppose there is a move within your department to change its hours. If this will interfere with doctor appointments or longer hours could be physically draining, you can request not to have to make those changes.