Maternity Leave Laws

Need a sample maternity leave policy? Information on pregnancy disability leave? We can help with the latest on topics like disability maternity leave.

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As the name clearly implies, the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) makes it illegal to discriminate against women who are pregnant. But it doesn’t mean pregnant employees are entitled to special privileges. In fact, the PDA merely makes clear that employers must treat pregnant employees the same way they treat every other employee.
The Minnesota Senate will hold hearings on the Constitutional Amendment for Equality (CAFE), a state-level equivalent of the federal Equal Rights Amendment that failed to win ratification in the 1970s and ’80s. In a statement, Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party legislators said the amendment to the Minnesota constitution would protect women’s rights in ways statutes can’t.
Every type of employee leave is different. Some leave requests involve difficult personal issues, while others can cause workplace morale problems. Plus, every state has different leave laws. What's worse, the costs of employee absenteeism—reflected in lost production, overtime and temporary replacements for the absent worker—can add up quickly. What's the best way to combat the problem?
Federal courts don’t have much patience for faulty logic. A U.S. District Court in New York recently issued a particularly stinging rebuke to a nurse whose pregnancy discrimination case hinged on the “fallacious syllogism” that “I was fired; I was pregnant when I was fired; therefore, I was fired because I was pregnant.”

Goldman Sachs is getting sued a lot these days … and not just by the SEC. Charlotte Hanna claims the embattled investment bank marginalized her after she had two children, effectively barring her from returning to full-time work as a vice president. In a lawsuit charging violations of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the FMLA, Hanna says taking the bank’s offer of an “off ramp” for executives who wanted to have children derailed her career.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act doesn’t guarantee pregnant employees any special treatment in the workplace. It simply says you must treat them “the same as any other temporarily disabled employee.” If your organization doesn’t allow other employees to take leave or be placed in light-duty positions, then pregnant employees aren’t entitled to such privileges either.
If you terminate employees who have used up all their FMLA leave and still can’t come back to work, watch out! Make sure you don’t single out any particular class of employees for firing.

St. Paul-based White Way Dry Cleaners has paid $42,250 to a former employee who filed an EEOC pregnancy discrimination lawsuit. The case arose when Michelle Johnson was transferred from her job pressing clothes to a counter position after telling her bosses she was pregnant. White Way had a longstanding policy of transferring pregnant employees to protect them from chemicals used in the dry cleaning process.

Q. Our maternity leave policy offers paid leave for female employees who plan to return to work after the birth of the child. If the employee quits before returning to work, she’s required to reimburse the company for the paid leave. Is this lawful?

Employers are often confused about how much absenteeism they must allow for employees who haven’t worked long enough to be covered by the FMLA, and who aren’t otherwise entitled to miss work as a reasonable accommodation for a disability. The bottom line is that if you treat everyone equally, you can set high attendance expectations—and fire those who don’t meet them.