Finally telling your boss about your pregnancy can be exciting or nerve wracking, but either way, it’s important to be informed before you initiate the conversation. Although maternity benefits vary from business to business, and are admittedly lax in the United States, there are some blanket “pregnancy rights” in the workplace. Essentially, this means expectant mothers have certain legal immunities required by law. If you don’t know what these rights are, there’s no way you can tell if your boss isn't being completely honest with you. Here’s a look at the employment guarantees for pregnant women in the U.S.
Temporary Disability Requirements
If you work for a company with 15 or more employees, your employer must treat you as they treat anyone else in the company with a medical disability. You may not see your pregnancy as a disability, but it’s considered a “temporary medical disability.” Along the same lines, you’re entitled to the same level of medical benefits, medical leave, and temporary disability insurance provided to employees who have medical conditions or disabilities. If your company doesn't provide temporary disability insurance, there are policies available through companies like Aflac -- although you generally need to get one arranged before you conceive.
Right to Employment
An employer can’t fire you or prevent you from being promoted just because you’re pregnant. As long as you’re able to complete the duties of your job, you’re position is guarenteed and you must be considered for any promotions you might apply for just as if you weren’t pregnant. Conversely, however, your employer isn’t legally obligated to make your job easier for you. For example, if a promotion would require you be able to lift 75 pounds regularly, your pregnancy would make you an inappropriate candidate for the job.
If you’re willing to work until the day your baby is born, you can -- as long as you have the ability to complete the work required of you. An employer can’t ask you to take a medical leave if you can work efficiently. If you have to take time off due to your pregnancy (i.e. preeclampsia often requires complete bedrest), but are able to return to work before your baby is born, you have the right to do so.
Maternity Leave Rights
When the time comes for the baby's birth, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires local, state, or federal government agencies and employers with 50 or more employees to provide new mothers with 12 weeks (or three months) unpaid maternity leave. In order to receive this leave, you must have worked for your current employer for one year and at least 1,250 hours during the previous year. This time can be used before or immediately after your baby's arrival. Some companies provide paid leave, but it isn’t a requirement. Additionally, some companies provide paternity leave. Ultimately, this means you can take up to three months off for your pregnancy and be guaranteed your position at the end of that time.
Insurance Rights and Policies
If you’re covered by your husband's insurance policy, then your husband's employer can’t deny coverage for your pregnancy if they provide maternity coverage for their current female employees. Furthermore, if they currently provide health insurance for spouses of female employees, you’re entitled to the same benefits. Finally (but equally important for new moms to know), an employer can’t discriminate against single mothers. Benefits are entitled to married as well as single moms.