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How to Handle Disclosing your Pregnancy at Work; The Legal Caveat

 How to Handle Disclosing your Pregnancy at Work; The Legal Caveat

Being pregnant can be a wonderful and beautiful time in your life, however some employers are less friendly to pregnancy than others. Listed below are a few tips and legal considerations when you are delivering the news of your pregnancy to your employer.

Pregnancy- Discrimination1.  HOW/WHEN TO DISCLOSE YOUR PREGNANCY TO YOUR EMPLOYER

There is no legal requirement that you have to disclose your pregnancy at a job interview or during your work term, as long as you can continue to perform the functions of the job.Nevertheless,

at the end of your first trimester your pregnancy will become evident.  The point at which you inform your employer is completely up to you.  If you anticipate requesting any kind of accommodations to be able to attend medical visits or pregnancy related sickness, or to arrange maternity leave, you may want to disclose your pregnancy to your employer at that time.

Prior to starting a conversation regarding your pregnancy and any possible accommodations, it is important you find out what you may be entitled to during your pregnancy.  Consult with the human resources department or refer to your employee handbook or employment agreement to determine your pregnancy/maternity options.  Some of the possible benefits you may be entitled to are:

  • Vacation days
  • Personal days
  • Holiday time
  • Paid Sick Leave
  • Short Term Disability
  • Paid Pregnancy/Maternity Leave  
  • Unpaid family leave time (FMLA)

Be sure to research your specific state laws and your employee handbook, so that you are aware of what you are entitled to.

2. WHAT IS YOUR EMPLOYER ALLOWED TO ASK YOU?

An employer cannot ask you if you are pregnant or planning to have children, nor can an employer ask you if you are having a child out of wedlock!

There have been a number of cases where single women have been fired after informing their employers that they are having a child out of wedlock.  Employers who act in such manner are are basing the termination on personal morals and not the employee’s ability to perform.

In some circumstances, antiquated or “old school” employers may see the act of being a single mother as “disgraceful or  immoral”; based on their own personal/Religious beliefs.  

For those type of employers, the Supreme Court made it clear that being terminated for being pregnant out of wedlock “is not disgraceful or immoral within the contemplation of the law.” Therefore, an employer cannot terminate a pregnant employee for having a child out of wedlock. For further details regarding the Supreme Court’s ruling in this type of case, please refer to Cheryll Santos Leus vs. Scholastica’s College Westgrove, et. al.

If your employer begins to question your marriage, relationship status or details regarding the father of your future child, consult with an Attorney to find out your legal rights.

3. HOW TO ASK FOR ACCOMMODATIONS & WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Last year employees filed over 3,400 charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging pregnancy discrimination. The main complaint in recent times are employers refusing to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees.  It has been illegal for employers to discriminate against pregnant women in the workplace since 1978 when Congress enacted the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) 42 U.S.C. 2000e(k).

While women are entitled to accommodations, such as an extra bathroom break, oftentimes an employer will require a doctor’s note to comply with an accommodation. Research has found that some doctors lack the ability to properly request a specific accommodation resulting in discrimination against the pregnant employee.  

The Center Working Group on Pregnancy Accommodations, a team of doctors, lawyers, scholars, and others who are working to address discrimination against pregnant workers have found that oftentimes doctors notes are vague about the condition. The research found that often times doctors make recommendations that are not medically necessary, or restrict activities that are essential to the worker’s job duties.  The wording on a doctor’s note can have a heavy impact on whether the employer will decide if they can accommodate pregnant employee or terminate. Therefore, it is important that one pays attention on the kind of accommodation required and detailed on how it should be enacted.

4. TERMINATED OR DISCRIMINATED AGAINST?  WHAT TO DO.

Under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, you cannot be fired for filing a complaint against your employer if you believe that he or she has discriminated against you.  In most cases, you must file a complaint within 180 days of the discrimination action to preserve your legal rights.  If you are not sure whether you want to seek legal counsel, below are some tips on how to protect yourself, if you believe that you are being discriminated against due to your pregnancy.

  1. Write down what happened:  the date, time, and place of the incident — as soon as possible.  Include what was said and who was there. Keep a copy of these notes at home.  They will be useful if you decide to file a complaint with your company or take legal action.
  2. Check your employee handbook for procedures.
  3. Keep doing a good job and keep a record of your work.  Keep copies at home of your job evaluations and any letters or memos that show you are doing your job well. Your boss may criticize your performance later on in order to defend his or her discrimination.
By: Daniela Carrion