Don’t treat pregnancy-related absences differently than other medical absences

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in Human Resources,Maternity Leave Laws

No doubt you understand that pregnant employees are entitled to take FMLA leave for to deal with pregnancy-related matters, give birth and recover. But do you know you must make sure that any pregnancy-related absences are treated the same way as other illness recoveries after the employee has used her FMLA benefits?

Simply put, if you provide additional leave or special arrangements for someone recovering from a heart attack or broken leg, you must provide them for the pregnant employee, too. Otherwise, you may be violating the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA).

Recent case: Angela Williams worked as the HR director for a chain of family-owned liquor stores. When she became pregnant, she told the owners that she intended to use FMLA leave as needed.

Soon, she developed high blood pressure as a complication and her doctors suggested she work from home rather than commute one hour each way as she had been doing. She asked the owners, who said they would draft up an agreement. The agreement was never completed and Williams went out on FMLA leave. She was then terminated after FMLA leave expired and she gave birth.

Williams sued, alleging that other employees were allowed extra time to recover by working from home or by using other leave and vacation time.

The court said the different treatment could be discrimination and ordered a trial. (Williams v. Crown Liquors, No. 8:10-CV-02232, MD FL, 2012)

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