Maternity Leave Laws
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The only appropriate response to a pregnancy announcement is “Congratulations.” No smart aleck comments, no questions about family size, no wondering aloud how long the employee expects to be out. If the pregnant employee asks about leave, her boss should refer her to HR.
Teen fashion retailer Delia’s will pay $75,000 to two former employees at the chain’s Lehigh Valley Mall store to settle pregnancy discrimination claims. Apparently, pregnant employees didn’t mesh with Delia’s brand image.
An employee must levy very specific allegations for a bias complaint to become protected activity—unless HR already suspects discrimination.
A federal court has refused to expand the ways an employee can sue for alleged pregnancy discrimination. Had the female plaintiff succeeded, the case might have opened the door to a runaway jury award.
Employers experiencing economic difficulties can cut positions if need be and not worry that it cost the job of an employee who was out on maternity leave. But beware! If the decision to cut the employee was based on her having taken leave, she can sue.
Q. How long do we have to hold a position for an employee on maternity leave if we employ fewer than 50 people? Our company policy says eight weeks, but what I have found ranges from six to eight weeks from birth. The FMLA says 12, but we do not seem to qualify for that due to our size.
THE PROBLEM: Company policy clearly states that employees are mandated to work overtime during busy periods. An employee did so willingly, until she became pregnant. During the busiest period of the year, she shows up with a doctor’s note explaining that she can no longer work overtime. What would you do?
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act amended Title VII to prohibit employers from treating pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions any differently than they treat employees with temporary disabilities. It forbids pregnancy discrimination in hiring, firing, wages, benefits, pay increases, seniority, promotions, demotions, transfers, leaves of absence and other terms of employment.
Placing an employee on forced leave can form the basis for a lawsuit, according to a recent 7th Circuit Court of Appeals decision. That’s true even if the forced leave is consistent with company policy and applies to all employees.
Generally, pregnancy isn’t a disability under the ADA, nor are pregnancy-related complications. But under some limited circumstances—when pregnancy complications cause separate medical conditions that persist after birth—the employee may qualify as disabled under the ADA.