Maternity leave for small employers

Q. We are a small not-for-profit organization with eight full-time and 20 (give or take) part-time employees. One of our full-time employees is asking about maternity leave. We currently do not have a policy in place for maternity leave. What are our options?

There are no federal or Indiana state laws that require an employer to provide maternity leave to its employees. However, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) does cover your organization. The PDA, which is a subset of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, requires an employer to treat a pregnant employee the same in all material respects as any non-pregnant employee in the work force.

This comes into play in organizations like yours if you provide for some form of personal leave (paid or not) for emergency situations. If you provide such leave, you cannot deny a pregnant employee the use of similar leave simply because she is pregnant.

If your company historically has permitted employees with unexpected medical conditions the opportunity to take up to two weeks’ unpaid leave without losing their jobs, you must allow a pregnant employee the same opportunity for unpaid leave. That is what the EEOC expects under the terms of the PDA.

The bottom line is that so long as the pregnant employee is provided the same rights and opportunities as any other employee in your work force, you will not violate the PDA.