What Are My Pregnant Employee’s Rights?
Question: We have a problem that has “blossomed” up at our business. We hired a dispatcher about a month ago. When I sent her insurance information to our carrier 3 days after she came to work I noticed that she listed she was pregnant.
She had not told the people that she interviewed with that she was pregnant, which I can understand. She was hired because of her ability – not her work status. But the problem is now she is starting to really show. She still has said nothing to anyone – not even “the girls.”
What happens if one of our technicians comes into the office and says “Wow are you pregnant?” I know not to say anything to anyone in the office, but it’s getting awkward and I’m afraid someone is going to say something they shouldn’t.
We have less than 40 people at our business. Am I correct in believing that we do not have to hold her job for her once she is off for having the baby. What about all the time off for doctor’s appointments during our busiest time this summer. (She is due in July, she stated on the insurance papers).
I am sure there is a whole list of rules for us to follow, but where should I look?
Answer: Here’s the official word: The Pregnancy Discrimination Act is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions constitutes unlawful sex discrimination under Title VII, which covers employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. Title VII also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations, as well as to the federal government. Women who are pregnant or affected by related conditions must be treated in the same manner as other applicants or employees with similar abilities or limitations.
An employer may not single out pregnancy-related conditions for special procedures to determine an employee’s ability to work. However, if an employer requires its employees to submit a doctor’s statement concerning their inability to work before granting leave or paying sick benefits, the employer may require employees affected by pregnancy-related conditions to submit such statements.
If an employee is temporarily unable to perform her job due to pregnancy, the employer must treat her the same as any other temporarily disabled employee. For example, if the employer allows temporarily disabled employees to modify tasks, perform alternative assignments, or take disability leave or leave without pay; the employer also must allow an employee who is temporarily disabled due to pregnancy to do the same.
Pregnant employees must be permitted to work as long as they are able to perform their jobs. If an employee has been absent from work as a result of a pregnancy-related condition and recovers, her employer may not require her to remain on leave until the baby’s birth. An employer also may not have a rule that prohibits an employee from returning to work for a predetermined length of time after childbirth.
Employers must hold open a job for a pregnancy-related absence the same length of time jobs are held open for employees on sick or disability leave.
Finally, you can’t prevent your employees from saying anything that is so readily apparent; however, you as her employer are bound by these laws and need to ensure that you are in compliance.
This response is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion, nor is this column a substitute for formal legal assistance. For help with particular legal needs, members are invited to consult with ACCA’s LegalTools Counsel, Brooke Duncan III of Adams and Reese LLP. Mr. Duncan can be reached at 504-585-0220 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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