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Understanding Your Legal Rights as a Pregnant Woman in the Workplace

Many pregnant women are not fully aware that they have certain legal rights in regards to how they are treated in the workplace, or when applying for a job.  These rights are designed to help prevent discrimination, and to ensure that they are not penalized based on the medical requirements associated with being pregnant or giving birth.

While some protections are available on a consistent basis, others may be only available in certain countries or cities.  If you would like to have a better understanding of your legal rights while pregnant, here are some of the major ones.

Understanding Your Legal Rights as a Pregnant Woman in the Workplace

Being Hired by an Employer

It is considered discriminatory to make a hiring decision based solely on a woman currently being pregnant, or for planning to become pregnant in the future.  Additionally, a woman cannot be fired solely for becoming pregnant.  This is in place to avoid any negative connotations for choosing to start a family, even if certain medical accommodations may be required.

Maternity Leave and Leave of Absence

A woman is to be offered the same rights regarding a leave of absence for medical reasons as would anyone else experiencing a qualifying medical condition.  Often, many of the medical situations that result from giving birth can qualify as a temporary disability, and must be treated as such.

Additionally, a woman is entitled to use their benefits and leave in support of your leave of absence.  If leave is not available, leave without pay should be granted.  In contrast, an employer cannot force a woman to take maternity leave beyond what is considered reasonable.

What is considered reasonable maternity leave is up to interpretation, as each woman may have a different experience when giving birth and recovering from pregnancy.  Often, a period of up to 12 weeks is standard, though that time period may be adjusted based on the recommendation of a qualified physician or medical provider.

Reinstatement after Leave is Complete

If a woman maintains an intent to return to work after her maternity leave is complete, she must be reinstated in her original position, or an equivalent position.  In cases where an equivalent position is used, equivalent pay, benefits, seniority, retirement, and other service credits must also be applied to the new position.

Find Out More at Work

For those interested in learning more about the policies in place within their workplace, you may want to consult your employee handbook, if available, or other internal resources for employees.  Additionally, you may be able to contact a human resources representative with any questions you have, or any items that you may need clarified.

If you belong to a union, you may find information regarding your rights within your union contract, or on the associated websites.  They may also be able to assist you should you have a dispute with your current employer regarding your needs while pregnant.

Finding Legal Advice

If you believe you may have been a victim of unlawful discrimination related to your pregnancy, you may want to consult a legal professional.  You can begin your search on this site, or search for local law firms that specialize in employment law.

You may also find some level of guidance through other websites, but it is always wise to work with a professional before pursuing any course of action.

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