A recent study shows that nearly a quarter of working women would feel nervous to tell their boss they are pregnant. The same research shows that almost 80 percent of female workers with children believe they must do more to climb the corporate ladder.
These statistics are sobering, considering there are federal and state laws against gender discrimination in the workplace. Pregnant workers also are protected under the law.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978 is a federal law that protects pregnant employees from workplace discrimination. It covers hiring, firing, pay, promotions, training, benefits, and other aspects of a pregnant worker’s employment.
Still, many pregnant workers are nervous about announcing their pregnancies at work. Some worry about losing their jobs, whereas others fear demotion or not receiving a promised promotion.
Many pregnant workers are concerned about maternity leave and pay. Although most employees are guaranteed 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), that is often not enough time or income.
No one should ever be afraid to tell their boss they are pregnant. Planning can go a long way in ensuring a successful pregnancy and maternity leave at work.
Tips for Announcing a Pregnancy at Work
The following tips can help ensure a smooth transition from work to maternity leave and back again.
- Announce the pregnancy as soon as it is comfortable. The decision is personal, but the employee should give ample notification. The boss should be informed first; they will not want to hear it through the office grapevine. The employee should not apologize for being pregnant; she should be positive and confident.
- The employee should create a plan to share with the boss. The plan should include the following:
- Timelines for expected maternity leave, when the employee will most likely leave and return to work. The employee should lock in the dates as accurately as possible for planning purposes.
- Type and amount of time to be used: sick time, short-term disability, vacation, PTO, FMLA, or other time off available.
- Ideas and solutions for how work can get done during the leave, location of project documents, how clients will be serviced, who can take over or help with the work.
- Status of current and expected projects and how they might be affected.
- Special needs or limitations during the pregnancy. For example, if a job requires long periods of standing, the employee can ask for modifications. The PDA requires an employer to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers.
- Schedule and get approval for time off for doctor appointments and share dates with coworkers for scheduling purposes.
- Meet with the HR department to confirm pay, benefits, maternity leave time, and other matters. The employee should get everything in writing.
- Document the final plan and dates in writing and share with superiors and colleagues to ensure a smooth transition.
What to do About Pregnancy Discrimination
Despite federal, state, and even local laws against gender and pregnancy discrimination, they do exist. Unfortunately, many women find they are treated differently after announcing their pregnancy or returning to work.
Sometimes the discrimination is subtle, such as not getting prime assignments after returning from maternity leave. Other times the discrimination is blatant, including being laid off, demoted, or seeing job responsibilities and authority reduced or given to another worker.
Anyone who suspects discrimination during pregnancy should do the following:
- Keep detailed notes about what is happening.
- Retain copies of any emails or other communications regarding the discrimination.
- Summarize meetings with the boss, colleagues, or HR regarding the situation.
- Report the discrimination to the HR department.
If HR does not respond or responds unsatisfactorily, an employee can file a discrimination charge with the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). At this point, it is a good idea to consult with an employment lawyer who knows the laws and understands the grievance process.
South Jersey Employment Lawyers at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC, Advocate for Pregnant Workers
Gender and pregnancy discrimination in the workplace are illegal. If you experience discrimination during your pregnancy, while on maternity leave, or when you return to work, contact the South Jersey employment lawyers at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC. We will be happy to advise you of your rights and options. Call us today at 856-235-7075 or contact us online for a free consultation. With office locations in Mount Laurel and Atlantic City, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients from Cherry Hill, Burlington County, Camden County, and throughout South Jersey.