A pregnancy is a joyful time for most women, but some women feel a sense of dread when they realize they will have to tell their employer about the pregnancy. Discrimination is the cause of the dread. Fortunately, pregnant women have specific protections against discrimination in the workplace. These protections extend through the breastfeeding period. Any pregnant woman should learn about the protections in place for her.
Company size matters
The size of the company you work for matters when trying to determine if protections apply to you. Companies with 15 or more employees must follow regulations set for pregnant women by federal law. Companies with 50 or more employees must follow regulations set for breastfeeding mothers by federal law. Any company with fewer employees don’t have to provide the exact protections specified in the federal law if it would cause undue hardship to the employer. However, they must still treat employees fairly. The burden falls on the employer to prove that accommodating a pregnant woman’s needs or a nursing mother’s need to express milk would place an undue burden on the employer.
Pregnancy discrimination issues
A pregnant woman might need special accommodations when she works. Some pregnant women suffer from conditions considered disabilities, such as gestational diabetes. If your doctor has told you about work-related restrictions, have the doctor write out a clear note that outlines the restrictions or accommodations that you need. It is never acceptable for an employer to discriminate against a pregnant woman.
The employer can’t avoid giving you a raise you are due, fire you, or pass you up for a promotion simply because you are pregnant. You would have a claim against the employer if any form of discrimination or retaliation occurs because of your pregnancy.
Nursing mother protections
Federal law dictates that nursing mothers must have a private area conducive to expressing milk if she must pump at work. The area can’t be a bathroom facility. Employers can provide a temporary space or convert a shared space into a pumping area. Any space provided must shield the woman from the view of others and must prevent intrusions from occurring while she pumps.
There isn’t a set time limit for a woman to express milk at work. You should be allowed to pump as needed and for a reasonable amount of time. The regulations do note that the time and frequency of sessions should decrease as time progresses. Employers must provide these accommodations for up to one year after the child is born.