Federal employment and maternity leave laws stress that all employees should be treated equally. This includes in terms of hiring, termination, pay, and benefits. The problem is that some employers continue to treat certain categories of workers adversely in violation of the law. That’s where employment law steps in to ensure that the rights of workers are upheld and that employers are held responsible for discriminatory actions.
In the case of pregnant workers, a number of issues can arise from differences in treatment at work once a pregnancy is announced. Pregnant workers sometimes face an onslaught of pregnancy discrimination when employers begin cutting back on hours, forcing maternity leave or rejecting requests for accommodation. Under these circumstances, it is essential that pregnant employees know their rights and the maternity leave laws that protect them.
All About the Rights of Pregnant Workers
Under federal law, pregnant workers are protected via two different avenues. The first, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, protects pregnant workers from pregnancy discrimination on the basis of female status (sex). The law applies to companies with 15 or more workers in every area of the employment process, including compensation, hiring, firing, benefits, and leave.
Under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), pregnant workers receive even more protection. The PDA requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations at workers’ requests. Employers must comply with these request unless doing so would cause undue hardship. The requested accommodation must be reasonable meaning that it should not interfere with business or cause a significant financial risk or harm.
Finally, pregnant workers may also seek protection under maternity leave laws found in the Americans with Disabilities Act. This is because pregnancy is defined as a disability falling under the purview of the ADA. The ADA is especially important when there are pregnancy complications or when extra leave is needed.
The Family and Medical Leave Act, (FMLA) may also support a pregnant worker. The FMLA is is well known for upholding employee rights concerning leave. Under the FMLA, both men and women can receive of up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a newborn.
Ensuring Your Rights Are Protected as A Pregnant Worker
Each of these maternity leave laws provide both rights and remedies for workers. For instance, it is possible to receive back pay, front pay, reinstatement and even monetary awards when an employer is found liable. However, the litigation process for every one of these laws except the FMLA requires first filing a charge with the EEOC.
However, before filing a formal charge with the EEOC, approaching your employer may the best way to go to ensure your rights if you’re pregnant. In fact, in some instances it can be required for employees to follow all proper procedures outlined in company handbooks. This means following the chain of command for filing grievances or complaints of pregnancy discrimination, harassment or other employment rights violations.
Approaching your employer places the responsibility for responding in a legal and supportive way in their corner. In some instances, if the employer fails to respond or to provide legally required accommodations dictated by maternity leave laws, courts will factor in such behavior in favor of the employee. Make sure that all actions are well documented and that you keep copies of emails, letters and other relevant communications. These may prove valuable if the complaint turns into actual litigation later.
Filing a Formal Charge With the EEOC
If the results of approaching an employer are unsatisfactory, an employee can pursue litigation to ensure their rights are upheld. For issues filed under Title VII, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act, the first step is to file a charge with the EEOC.
When filing a charge, it’s important to note several critical deadlines. Typically, pregnant employees have 180 days from the last date of the grievance to file an EEOC charge. Timely filed charges can be investigated by EEOC officials who will provide information on whether the case can move forward with representation or be given back to the employee, along with a Notice of Right to Sue. This Notice gives permission for the employee to pursue the case in a court of law with an attorney of their own.
Proving Pregnancy Rights Violations
Once an employee receives notice from the EEOC, an employment rights lawyer is essential for continuing a case against the employer. Employment right attorneys specialize in handling pregnancy discrimination cases a well as violations of federal and state maternity leave laws protecting the rights of pregnant workers.
An experienced employment rights attorney should be mindful of what it takes to prove pregnancy rights violation. For pregnancy discrimination claims filed under Title VII, this involves showing that an employee has been treated differently from other employees due to her pregnancy.
Employers will be given the opportunity to defend such claims by proving that there was some reason other than discrimination that motivated the adverse treatment. If the employer is unsuccessful, the employee will be rewarded in a way that puts her back in the position she would have been in had the discrimination not occurred.
For claims under the ADA or the PDA, proving pregnancy rights and maternity leave law violations is slightly different. Mainly, it will be up to the employee to show that the employer failed to respond to requests to accommodate the conditions of the pregnancy in a way that complies with federal law.
The employer will have the chance to show that the reasons for failure to respond was because the request would have caused undue hardship on the business. If unsuccessful, The employer may have to pay penalties and fees including lost wages and back pay or the cost of physical or psychological therapy.
Ensuring your Employment Rights If You’re Pregnant
Ensuring your employment rights if you’re pregnant begins with you. First, know your rights. This is important. It ensures that when a maternity leave law violation occurs, employees are aware enough to take action to prevent reoccurance. Also, understand the EEOC formal charge filing process. Having a lawyer by your side during this time can prove extremely beneficial. Last, but not least, uphold your rights through litigation. As a pregnant worker you deserve to be treated fairly according to the law and fight against pregnancy discrimination.