Working and pregnant
If you're like many women today, you are probably employed full-time in a demanding job. Now that you're pregnant, you may be thinking about your career and possible long-term changes in your job. While much depends on the type of work and whether or not a pregnancy has complications, most women can continue working throughout pregnancy. It's important for you to know your rights and benefits as a pregnant employee, and what your responsibilities are to your employer during this time.
In the United States, there are two laws concerning pregnancy and employment: The Pregnancy Discrimination Act and The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Both of these laws have very specific rules and requirements for their use and you should consult an attorney if you have questions about how they apply to you. Generally, these laws provide the following benefits:
- Discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions constitutes unlawful sex discrimination under Title VII.
More women than ever before are getting early prenatal care. A report from the Department of Health and Human Services found that, in 2004, the latest statistics available, 84 percent of women in the United States received prenatal care beginning in the first trimester.
Prenatal care is one of the best ways to ensure the health of mothers and their infants. Good care during pregnancy also encourages good health habits, such as not smoking, which have life-long health benefits.
- Women affected by pregnancy or related conditions must be treated in the same manner as other applicants or employees with similar abilities or limitations.
- An employer cannot refuse to hire a woman because of her pregnancy-related condition as long as she is able to perform the major functions of her job.
- If an employee is temporarily unable to perform her job due to pregnancy, the employer must treat her the same as any other temporarily disabled employee; for example, by providing modified tasks, alternative assignments, disability leave, or leave without pay.
- Pregnant employees must be permitted to work as long as they are able to perform their jobs.
- A covered employer must grant an eligible employee up to a total of 12 workweeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for one or more of the following reasons:
- For the birth and care of the newborn child of the employee;
- For placement with the employee of a son or daughter for adoption or foster care;
- To care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition; or
- To take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that went into effect in 2010 requires employers to provide "reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child's birth each time such employee has need to express the milk." Employers are also required to provide "a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk." This law has specific rules about situations when it applies, and you should consult an attorney for more information.