Pregnancy Discrimination

Many employers maintain antiquated beliefs about the abilities and commitment of pregnant women. Pregnant women, new mothers, as well as fathers, have significant legal protections. In the event of pregnancy discrimination or retaliation for a pregnancy or parental leave, an employee has rights and can take legal action against the employer.

What is pregnancy discrimination?

Minnesota and federal law prohibit an employee from being discriminated against because of her pregnancy. Under the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) and the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act  (PDA), it is unlawful pregnancy discrimination for a woman to be denied a job, a promotion, insurance or other benefits because of pregnancy, childbirth or disabilities related to pregnancy or childbirth. It is also illegal for an employer to demote or discharge an employee for taking medical leave relating to a pregnancy.

What if I have pregnancy-related work restrictions?

Both Minnesota and federal law require covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations for health conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth. Following an employee’s request, the employer must actively engage with the employee to find a way to accommodate her, provided the accommodation does not cause undue hardship on the employer. Reasonable accommodations may include, but are not limited to, a temporary job transfer to a less strenuous position, restroom breaks, seating, and lifting restrictions. Minnesota law states the employer must provide, and may not claim undue hardship for, the following accommodations: 1) more frequent restroom, food and water breaks; 2) seating; and 3) limits on lifting restrictions up to 20 pounds.

Impairments resulting from pregnancy may be disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), entitling the employee to further legal protections. Further, under the PDA, an employer that allows temporarily disabled employees to take disability leave or leave without pay must also allow an employee who is temporarily disabled due to their pregnancy to do the same.

Am I entitled to maternity leave?

Yes. Pregnant employees have a right to time off for childbirth and recovery. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), covered employers must provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in connection with the birth or adoption of a child. To qualify, the employee must have worked for the employer 12 months prior to taking the leave, worked at least 1,250 hours, and the employer must have at least 50 employees within 75 miles of the work location. Leave must also be granted if the pregnant employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.

Similarly, under Minnesota Pregnancy and Parental Leave Act, an employee may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of child if the employer has 21 or more employees and the employee has worked for the company for at least 12 months and at least half time preceding the leave request. The employee only has a right to 12 weeks of leave total, even if the employee qualifies for both FMLA and pregnancy or parental leave.

Do I get my job back when I return from leave?

Yes. Upon returning from a leave, an employee is entitled to return to the same position or one with comparable duties, hours and pay. Additionally, the employee is entitled to the exact same benefits and seniority prior to taking leave. An employer cannot retaliate against an employee for taking parental leave. Any reduction in hours, demotion, or change in duties after a leave could be considered retaliation.

Contact Our Minnesota Employment Lawyers to Discuss Your Rights
Baillon Thome Jozwiak & Wanta LLP is dedicated to protecting the rights of employees throughout Minnesota. Our attorneys have represented numerous employees who have experienced pregnancy discrimination and related rights violations in the workplace. If you believe you have been, or are currently being, discriminated against because of your pregnancy, we want to hear from you. Contact us at 612-252-3570 or click here for a free initial consultation.