Pregnancy, its effects on the body, and the various check-ups needed during the process all make work more challenging for pregnant women. Too much strain or stress during pregnancy can also cause developmental problems for the baby. Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to all pregnant women, but all too often, these accommodations are denied. Here is what your employer must offer and how you are protected by law.
All pregnant women are allowed to take maternity or family leave, which is usually a 12-week period that can be taken all at once or taken in increments equal to 12 weeks. Women’s partners can also take family leave following the birth of the child in order to bond with them. Employers must also accommodate absences for other medical reasons during pregnancy, such as doctor’s visits.
In the workplace itself, employers are required to offer reasonable physical accommodations. This could mean an office arrangement that better suits your current ability or more time to sit down when you would otherwise be standing. You may request additional breaks as well.
Sometimes it is difficult to perform the same duties you did before pregnancy, depending on your role. In these circumstances, employers must offer you alternative assignments that you can complete, as long as it doesn’t cause them undue hardship.
If accommodations are denied
Pregnant women are protected from discrimination and retaliation under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). This means you cannot be harassed, fired, denied a promotion, or face any other discriminatory behavior because of your pregnancy or your request for maternity/family leave.
Your employer is also required by law to offer you the same or an equivalent job position when you return from leave. This means you are entitled to the same or very similar pay, job duties, vacation time, etc. as you had before your absence.
One thing your employer must do, regardless of whether you are currently pregnant or not, is make your rights very clear. Company policy on maternity leave and pregnancy rights must be completely public information that is easy to access. Your employer should never be hiding your rights from you.
If you have been denied proper accommodations or faced discrimination/retaliation because of your pregnancy, you are protected by law. You have the right to file a claim against your employer.