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3 ways that the law protects pregnant workers from discrimination

Pregnancy comes with a lot of medical and emotional consequences. While some women have completely healthy and uneventful pregnancies, others develop pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes or other serious medical issues. As if these health concerns and the strain that pregnancy can cause on relationships aren’t bad enough, some women also have to deal with discrimination at work.

Federal and California state laws extend certain protections to pregnant women to help them avoid discrimination during this important time in their life. What are some of the ways that the law protects pregnant workers?

Pregnant women have the right to take maternity leave

Some companies extend paid maternity leave benefits for their workers, which can be an excellent resource for expectant mothers. Even if your employer doesn’t offer maternity leave as a benefit, you still have the legal right to take time off of work. You just won’t necessarily receive any compensation for that leave.

Federal and California state laws give workers certain leave rights, although California is a bit more generous. Workers can count on up to four months of unpaid leave under state law.

Pregnancy is a protected medical condition

There are federal laws that prohibit medical discrimination against people with conditions that affect their job performance. Provided there are enough workers at your job to qualify for these protections, you have the right to expect reasonable pregnancy accommodations at work. These might include letting you take on different responsibilities, allowing you to work from home or giving you the opportunity to take more breaks so that you can get off your feet.

Neither leave nor accommodations should affect your position or pay

When a pregnant worker takes medical leave or asks her employer to accommodate her so that she can stay on the job, her employer should not factor that into any future employment decisions. A worker’s pay, position and ongoing employment should not change negatively as the result of a worker needing pregnancy accommodations or leave after the birth of a child.

Workers who have experienced pregnancy discrimination on the job may be able to fight back not just for themselves but also for future women who will work at that company.