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Pregnancy/Maternity Leave Questions

Q. Can an employer refuse to hire a woman because she is pregnant?

No. A qualified woman who is pregnant must be considered for any position she applies for. It is an unfair practice to refuse to hire a woman because she is pregnant or may become pregnant.

Q. Is a woman entitled to maternity leave?

Under the law a pregnant woman is allowed to ask for medical leave away from work. This may include all the time her medical provider thinks is required. The law requires the employer to allow a pregnant woman time away from work for abnormal conditions. [FMLA]

Q. Is there a set period of time off of work for leave during pregnancy?

Under the law there is no set period of time off of work for pregnancy problems. The employer is expected to allow a woman time off work whenever the medical provider requests time off. Assuming the request is because she is medically unable to work. [FMLA]

Q. Is the employee entitled to full pay while on maternity leave?

The law doesn’t talk about pay while on maternity leave. So the basic answer is no. However, if the employer offers short-term disability insurance for other temporary disabilities, then the employer must offer it for pregnancy.

Q. Is the employee entitled to her job back after she delivers the baby?

Yes. Once the medical provider releases the woman to return to work the employer is expected to bring her back. However, the employer is not required to keep her specific position open though. If necessary the employer may fill the original position. Then the employer is expected to bring the employee back to work in a similar position after her medical provider releases her.

Q. If my employer temporarily fills a position with someone else while a woman is out on maternity leave and then doesn’t want to bring her back because they like the other person better can they do that?

The law allows the employer to fill a position if business necessity requires it. However, the law also says that an employer needs to bring the woman back to work after she is released. Therefore, returning her to a similar position is expected. But it may not be the one that she held prior to her leave.

Q. Can an employee be laid off or fired while pregnant or on maternity leave?

Not because of the pregnancy or related medical leave. However, if the employer is conducting a general reduction in force then her position may be included. The reduction in force must be based on business needs. Also performance problems can be addressed while the employee is pregnant.

Q. At what time in the pregnancy must the employee stop working?

The employee and her medical provider decide when she must stop working. There is no standard time when a pregnant employee needs to stop working. If the employee is medically able to work she can work until she delivers the baby.

Q. If an employee experiences morning sickness or another related physical condition due to the pregnancy is she permitted to take leave during this time and then return to work for the remaining period of this pregnancy?

Generally if a woman suffers an unusual condition related to her pregnancy then she is entitled to ask for time away from work. It is expected that she will be granted time away from work. No matter how long the need for time off work, the employer should bring the woman back when her medical provider releases her.

Q. Must an employer provide health insurance coverage for pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions?

Yes, if the employer offers health insurance for other temporary medical conditions. Then the employer needs to provide insurance that covers pregnancy.

Q. Is the employee on maternity leave entitled to take additional time off for childcare and/or bonding with the child?

Under discrimination law the employer is not required to grant leave for childcare or bonding. However, there may be other laws that apply to this type of leave and they should be reviewed. [FMLA]

Q. Can my employer decide when I have to go on leave before the baby is born?

No. The woman and her medical provider determine the length of time she is excused from work.

Q. Can I expect to have my job duties altered to accommodate my medical condition because I am pregnant?

If there were an abnormal physical condition, asking for a change of job duties is considered a reasonable accommodation. Changing minor job functions can be a reasonable accommodation. The employer does not need to make major changes in job duties in order to accommodate an employee. Follow the employer’s normal way of asking for a change at work.

Q. Can an employer decrease an employee’s work hours because she is pregnant?

An employer must treat a woman who is pregnant the same as any other employee. An employer must have a business reason for changing the employee’s work schedule. If decreased hours are part of a reasonable accommodation request by the employee the request should usually be granted.

Q. Does an employee lose seniority rights when she takes disability leave due to pregnancy?

No, as long as the employer’s policy allows it. If the policy permits the employee to keep and build benefits during a leave for other short-term disabilities the same policy needs to apply to pregnancy. If there is no policy then seniority should not be lost.

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