Are you newly pregnant and unsure of how to tell your employer? Are you afraid that you may suffer retaliation, such as reduced hours or termination? Have you recently been fired or been treated differently by an employer after disclosing a pregnancy? Were you turned down for a job after a potential employer discovered you were pregnant? Whether you are pregnant and in the middle of a job search or coming out of maternity leave and facing harassment or retaliation at work, you may be in need of an experienced pregnancy discrimination attorney.
Unfortunately, some managers and employers continue to have outdated beliefs about the abilities and commitment of pregnant women. To combat unfair treatment related to pregnancy and child-rearing, pregnant women, new mothers (as well as fathers) have significant legal protections related to the duration of pregnancy, paternity, maternity, and in the years following childbirth.
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. Our attorneys can help you understand your legal position, explore your options, and collect compensation related to your losses.
What is pregnancy discrimination?
Pregnancy discrimination is the legal term used to describe how an employee is treated by co-workers, employers, or an HR department after childbirth. It could relate to job duties and work assignments, harassment or a hostile work environment, or failure to comply with the law regarding benefits. Examples of pregnancy discrimination include the following:
- Turning down a qualified applicant because she is pregnant
- Refusing to promote an employee because she is pregnant
- Failure to provide health insurance or other benefits because of pregnancy, childbirth or disabilities related to pregnancy or childbirth
- Failure to maintain employment status for a woman who takes maternity leave
- Demoting an employee for taking medical leave related to pregnancy
- Termination or discharging an employee for taking medical leave relating to a pregnancy.
Minnesota and federal law prohibit an employee from being discriminated against because of her pregnancy. Our legal team has extensive experience applying the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) and the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) to protect the rights of women and parents in St. Paul, Minneapolis, and throughout Minnesota.
What if I have pregnancy-related work restrictions?
Laws require that employers 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.
Harassment and retaliation after pregnancy
Your protections as a pregnant woman do not end after delivery. If you have returned from maternity leave and found that your job assignments or hours have changed or you are suffering detrimental treatment, you may have a pregnancy discrimination claim. Similarly, you have rights and protections if you have suffered harassment, disparaging comments, or your co-workers have created a hostile work environment related to your pregnancy, caregiving responsibilities, or maternity leave. Our legal team can review your case, assess your options, and help you pursue relevant claims against an employer.
Contact Our Minnesota Employment Lawyers
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 for a free initial consultation.