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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.

Creating a legally compliant maternity leave policy is harder than ever. When you need assistance, trust Business Management Daily to help you deliver.

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Q. We are a small company and have seven employees. One of our employees recently went out on a leave of absence for pregnancy. During that time, we hired a replacement worker to do the same job. The replacement only worked part time, but was still able to complete work that our employee did full time. When our employee returns to work, we would like to change her job status from full time to part time. Is this legal?
Some things are best left unsaid. That includes any comments about how hard it must be for a mother to have a career and raise children. Tell managers to keep the topic out of their office chitchat.
Q. A while ago two of our employees developed a romantic relationship. They are now expecting a baby and both workers put in a request for family leave to bond with their newborn. Are we required to give both workers leave for the birth of their child—even if they are not married?

Regularly re­­mind bosses that they should never comment on an employee’s pregnancy, pregnancy-related problems or the desire to have children. Only two responses are appropriate: Congratulate the employee when things go well and offer condolences when they do not. Anything else may be interpreted as discrimination based on pregnancy.

A recent decision by the California Court of Appeal illustrates just how complicated and costly it can be to discipline an employee who is on protected leave.
If an employee is experiencing pregnancy complications, it may not be enough to provide four months of leave under California’s Pregnancy Disability Leave Law. For practical purposes, four months is the minimum leave employers are required to provide. You may owe more time off under the California FEHA, as long as it doesn’t create an undue hardship on your business operations.
What not to say to a pregnant worker: “The baby is taking a toll on you.” Sur­­pris­­ingly, that’s exactly what a four-month-pregnant waitress was told when she was cut from the weekly schedule and then fired. The employer will now pay $20,000 to settle her pregnancy discrimination suit.
It can be complicated to handle a pregnant employee when she can’t perform some part of her job. That’s because three federal laws—the ADA, the FMLA and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act—intersect to provide protection for some pregnant workers who have medical restrictions.
Q. Is it a violation of the PDA to fire a pregnant employee for excessive absenteeism and lateness?
Here’s a good reason to make sure pregnant employees don’t experience bias: The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act protects against pregnancy discrimination and holds personally liable anyone who aids or abets discriminatory practices.

California employees now enjoy ex­panded pregnancy rights after new Fair Employment and Housing Commission regulations took effect Dec. 30, 2012. The regulations bar employers from discriminating against employees for virtually any pregnancy-related condition.

If a woman who has been fired sues for pregnancy discrimination, she doesn’t have to prove that her pregnancy was the sole reason for the termination. She merely has to show that it was a motivating factor.
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.
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