You’re not a doctor! Don’t restrict pregnant employee’s work unless her physician says so

Some old-school managers cling to outdated notions about how to treat pregnant employees. Watch out if over-protectiveness results in women being denied an opportunity to work when there’s no reason not to.

Recent case: Rebecca McSweeney worked for Dinner’s Served as a special events coordinator. Shortly after announcing that she was pregnant, she developed complications and had to be under medical care for about two weeks.

When she tried to return to work, her supervisor told her that “the best thing for her unborn child was not to return to work during her pregnancy.” McSweeney disagreed and kept asking when she could start work again, armed with a doctor’s note clearing her for duty.

Then she was terminated. She sued, alleging pregnancy discrimination and retaliation.

The court said both claims could go to trial. (McSweeney v. Dinner’s Served, No. 10-2219, SD TX, 2010)

Final note: The only appropriate response to a pregnancy announcement is “Congratulations.” Then assume the employee is fit to do her job.  Unless yours is one of the rare industries in which harm could come to the fetus, don’t place restrictions on the mother’s work unless a doctor requests it.

Should she need time off for complications, treat that request as you would any other request for temporary leave for other illnesses or injuries. And if she is eligible for FMLA leave, remember that any medical care related to the pregnancy qualifies under the FMLA.