A pregnant woman has certain rights under the state and federal statutes that prohibit sex and disability discrimination in the workplace. A pregnant woman also has the right to a leave of absence from work for such things as pregnancy-related medical conditions and childbirth.
a woman may have a claim against her employer for pregnancy discrimination for a variety of reasons. For example, if a pregnant woman can prove that she was terminated, laid-off, not hired, refused leave time, or denied sick leave benefits due to her pregnancy, childbirth, or her pregnancy-related medical condition, she can hold the employer liable for such action.
In addition, a pregnant woman who has a complication with her pregnancy, such as toxemia, may have rights under the disability discrimination laws, including the right to reasonable accommodation, such as a job transfer or a flexible work schedule. A pregnant woman also has a statutory right under two statutes, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act (MMLA), to take an unpaid leave of absence from work for such things as childbirth and pregnancy-related illnesses. Finally, the courts and Congress have recognized that many employers still hold stereotypical views about a woman not being dedicated to her job after she becomes pregnant.
Here are five steps you can take to protect yourself at work:
1. Don’t wait too long to tell your employer you are pregnant. This way if you are fired or demoted, you may be able to protect yourself with anti-discrimination laws. If you employer finds out you are pregnant before you announce it and fires you, it may be able to claim ignorance, even if the real reason for your termination is your pregnancy.
2. If you are still at work and believe that your employer is discriminating against you, report it — in writing — to human resources or your boss. If your employer has 15 or more employees, you may be protected by anti-retaliation law.
3. If you are fired or demoted, ask why. Ideally, get it in writing. See if the reason makes sense. For instance, if your employer claims that your position has been eliminated and then hires someone else, that looks a lot like pregnancy discrimination.
4. If you are having a difficult pregnancy, discuss with your doctor how this is affecting you at work. If your employer has 15 or more employees, under the American’s with Disabilities Act, you may be entitled to ask for changes in the workplace — called “reasonable accommodations” — including more frequent breaks, lifting restrictions and time away from work for medical care. It is important that any request for accommodation be grounded in specifically how pregnancy is affecting your body. Ideally, your doctor can provide a letter explaining the issue to your employer.
5. Even if you do not plan to ask for changes at work, make sure that your boss or supervisor knows about health-related issues which you suffer from. This way, you may be protected if your employer later tries to fire or demote you.
The bottom line is pregnancy discrimination can’t be entirely avoided, but by taking these steps you can make it a lot easier to make your claim if it does happen.
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