Maternity leave and the rights of pregnant or expectant women are hot topics today. Companies across the country are held to certain requirements to better accommodate their employees who need time off after the birth of a child. These accommodations include certain protections that employers must extend to any pregnant employees, and failure to comply could lead to serious legal trouble.

Federal Laws

The federal government passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978. It was enacted to protect women who were pregnant and in the workforce, along with other employees who suffered from medical conditions. Under this law, employers are prohibited from discriminating against these employees, so long as the employer or company has 15 employees or more. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act states that it is illegal for an employer to do any of the following things:
  • Fire an employee because she is pregnant
  • Deny health coverage, disability coverage, or sick leave options to pregnant employees, if these things are given to employees with medical conditions
  • Force an expectant employee to take a leave for her pregnancy
  • Force a pregnant employee to stop working if she is still able to do so
  • Refuse to provide modified assignments or alternate work options to pregnant employees
  • Refuse to provide disability leave, or unpaid leave, to pregnant employees
  • Refuse to allow pregnant women to advance, or earn any seniority benefits for which they are eligible

Additionally, the act requires employers to provide job security to any employees who go on maternity leave, unpaid leave, or disability as a result of a pregnancy. This stipulation is conditional upon the company’s policy, so if job security is not provided in any circumstances for employees who take a leave, pregnant employees are not entitled to the same protection. However, if some employees are granted the option to return to work after a leave, those who return after maternity leave must be given the same opportunity.

Working hand in hand with the Pregnancy Discrimination Act is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which was passed in 1993. This act is applicable for any company that employs 50 people or more, and grants pregnant women the right to take a 12-week period of unpaid leave to deliver and care for newborn children. This leave comes with job protection at the same position, once the 12 weeks are up, and is available to pregnant women once every 12-month period. FMLA protections are granted to any pregnant woman who has worked for her employer for at least one full year before she files for leave, and for at least 25 hours per week during that year.

An employer has a responsibility to adhere to every federal requirement that protects pregnant employees, and to ensure that every department does the same. For more information on the rights of pregnant employees and the requirements for employers, contact an attorney at Lubell Rosen, a Fort Lauderdale employment law firm, today.