I remember when I was pregnant with my second child. It was right in the middle of summer, so naturally I was hot all the time. I worked in a business casual office, and I admit, I took the casual part a bit to the extreme. I showed up one day in a matching shorts outfit with sandals. I will never forget the note I found on my immediate supervisor’s desk demanding that I buy some appropriate work attire. This was a month before I was to deliver. I could have screamed discrimination due to the fact that the cute little skinny girls wore shorts outfits all the time and were never singled out. Could this perhaps be a form of discrimination? I certainly think so.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in fiscal year 2004, 4,512 charges of pregnancy-related discrimination were filed. Every single charge was resolved resulting in a recovery of $11.3 million in monetary benefits. Now is this something we should take seriously? Absolutely!
Discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions constitutes unlawful sexual discrimination under Title VII, which covers employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments.
An employer cannot refuse to hire a pregnant woman, nor can someone be fired because of pregnancy, as long as they are able to perform their job. If an employee is absent due to pregnancy-related conditions and recovers, the employer may not require her to remain on leave until the baby is born.
Employees with pregnancy-related disabilities must be treated the same as other temporarily disabled employees. Health insurance provided by the employer must cover expenses for pregnancy-related conditions. This does not include abortion except where the life of the mother is endangered. Pregnancy related benefits cannot be limited to married employees, and employers cannot deny coverage for the pregnancy care of a male employee’s spouse, provided that spouses of female employees are usually covered by comprehensive health insurance.
If you employ 50 employees within a 75 mile radius or you are local, state or federal government, and your employee has worked for you for one year and at least 1,250 hours during the previous year, you are required by law under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to grant eligible employees up to a total of 12 workweeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for the birth and care of the newborn child of the employee; for the 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.
Under the FMLA, employees may take part of their unpaid maternity leave while still pregnant if they are physically unable to work due to pregnancy or pregnancy-related conditions. You must protect their job for a total of 12 weeks, including time before and after birth. The employee has the right to the same job or a job with equal pay and benefits upon returning to work.
Let´s not discriminate against the fathers or adoptive parents either! Fathers are entitled to the same 12 weeks of unpaid leave, given the time is taken within one year of the child´s birth. The same rules apply to adoptive parents, beginning typically at custody of the child, however, if necessary, the employer is required to provide unpaid leave ahead of time in the event there are pre-adoption requirements.
“Life is tough enough without having someone kick you from the inside.” ~Rita Rudner