Pregnancy in Employment
If you are an employer who has a pregnant employee, it is very important to be aware of what your responsibilities are under the law. In the same vein, it is also important to know as an employee what an employer’s obligations are to you under the law if you are pregnant.
Any employer with fifteen or more employees is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended. Both of those laws do place responsibilities on employers when dealing with pregnant employees. First and foremost, an employer cannot treat a pregnant employee any differently than any other employee who has a disability. What this means is that if a pregnant employee comes to you and asks for an accommodation, for example, more rest breaks, just like with any other employee you must engage in the interactive process with them to come up with an appropriate reasonable accommodation. Of course, not every pregnant employee will need accommodation, but the ones who do must be treated the same under the law as any other employee with a disability.
This also applies to leaves. Any leave policy maintained by a company, short term and long term leave for example, must also be an option for pregnant employees. Further, if an employer has over fifty employees, twelve weeks of unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) must be provided to the employee if that employee has a complication with her pregnancy which requires time off of work or for bonding and child care once the baby has been born.
Finally, pregnant employees cannot be denied a promotion or other benefit of their employment because of their pregnancy or potential time out of work because of pregnancy or being a parent.
Basically, a pregnant employee must be treated the same as any other employee who can do their job with or without reasonable accommodation.
Employees should be aware of these protections as long as their employer has over 15 employees.
This topic has been in the news lately because of the EEOC’s recent settlement with CATO fashions for $3.5 million which will go to employees who were terminated because of their pregnancy or other disability.