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Understanding how FMLA protects pregnant employees

As federal law indicates, most employers cannot discriminate against employees simply because they are pregnant. This means that pregnant workers cannot be removed from schedules, docked pay or passed up for promotions. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act quite clearly lays out these forbidden practices.

At the same time, federal law provides additional support to working pregnant women. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission points out that the Family and Medical Leave Act allows employees to look after personal and family health issues.

Based on the protections provided by FMLA, pregnant women should be allowed time off for prenatal doctor visits or medical leave if their pregnancy requires bed rest. This, of course, helps women avoid a situation in which they are forced to decide between their careers, their own health and the health of their child.

It goes without saying that FMLA also provides critical workplace protections once children are born, which includes a 12 week leave of absence for infant care. The EEOC indicates that this guarantee doesn’t come until a person has been employed for at least 12 months. At the same time, employers may have individual company policies allow earlier eligibility for the benefit.

For working parents — or expecting parents — FMLA provides reassurance and support. Just because employees might need to take time away from work to handle pregnancy-related concerns doesn’t mean they care any less about work. Rather, it’s simply about making priorities among several important aspects of life.

Being denied time off for pregnancy can prove to be incredibly detrimental to the health of several parties. Patients who experience emotional or physical distress as the result of unfair treatment during pregnancy should understand that the law is on their side.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “Pregnancy Discrimination,” accessed July 10, 2014

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