Although pregnancy is an exciting and life-changing experience, it can pose unique job challenges. You may be pregnant (or thinking about having a child) but wonder, What are my rights as a pregnant employee? The most important thing you need to know is that numerous federal and state laws prohibit employers from treating you differently because of your pregnancy status. Simply put, an employer cannot fire you, demote you, or reduce your hours just because you are pregnant, and they must allow you to continue working as long as you can perform your job.
Understanding your rights as a pregnant employee is crucial to ensure a safe and fair working environment during this meaningful time. In this post, we will explore specific laws that protect pregnant employee and employer rights so that you have the information you need to navigate this unique phase of your life—because knowledge is your best defense against discrimination or unfair treatment.
What Are My Rights as a Pregnant Employee Under Florida Law?
The Florida Civil Rights Act (FCRA) prohibits employers from treating pregnant employees or job applicants less favorably than non-pregnant people because of their pregnancy. This FCRA prohibition covers all areas of employment, including hiring, firing, promotions, job assignments, pay, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of service. Additionally, employers must provide pregnant employees who need pregnancy-related employment modifications reasonable accommodations unless doing so would result in undue hardship on the employer’s business operations. Reasonable accommodations can include changes in the work environment that enable a pregnant worker to continue working.
It’s important to note that employers must employ 15 or more employees under Florida law for the FCRA to apply. If you work for a company with less than 15 people and are unsure of your employee rights while pregnant, an experienced employment attorney can explain your options and advocate for you during this time.
What Is the Pregnancy Discrimination Act?
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) is the primary federal law prohibiting pregnancy discrimination, passed in 1978 as an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The PDA bars employers from discriminating against employees or job applicants based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. The Act also bars employers from having policies that exclude pregnant employees from specific jobs. Other pregnant employee rights under the PDA include:
- Equal treatment – If a pregnant employee is temporarily unable to perform her job due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, the employer must treat her the same way as any other temporarily disabled employee.
- Health insurance – Under the PDA and the Affordable Care Act, an employer’s health insurance must cover expenses for pregnancy-related conditions. Additionally, pregnancy-related benefits cannot be limited to married employees.
- Leave – Pregnant employees must be permitted to work if they can perform their jobs. If an employee is absent from work because of a pregnancy-related condition and recovers, the employer cannot force her to remain on leave until the baby’s birth.
- Harassment – The PDA prohibits harassment based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or results in an adverse employment decision.
- Retaliation – Employers cannot retaliate against employees for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on pregnancy or for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under the PDA.
If you believe you are experiencing employment discrimination because of your pregnancy, you can file a complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency that enforces the PDA. However, the EEOC and FCHR impose strict time limits for filing a charge. The EEOC allows up to 300 days from the last act of discrimination to file a claim, and the FCHR allows up to 365 days, so you should contact the appropriate organization as soon as you believe your employer violated your rights.
Do I Have Rights Under the Family Medical Leave Act?
Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), if you’ve worked for your employer for at least a year and your workplace has more than fifty employees, you are entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child. You can use this period for pregnancy, childbirth, or bonding with your newborn. However, the length of leave will depend on your circumstances and your healthcare provider’s recommendations.
What Is the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act?
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) is a new law that takes effect on June 27, 2023. Under the PWFA, private and public sector employers with at least 15 employees must provide reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, unless the accommodation causes the employer an undue hardship. Examples of reasonable accommodations include flexible hours; closer parking; appropriately sized uniforms and safety apparel; additional break time to use the bathroom, eat, and rest; the ability to sit or drink water; leave or time off to recover from childbirth; and to be excused from strenuous activities or activities that involve exposure to unsafe compounds.
What Are My Breastfeeding Rights?
Florida law protects a mother’s right to breastfeed her child publicly and in the workplace. Your employer must also provide reasonable breaks and private space, other than a bathroom, for breastfeeding and expressing breast milk.
If You Have Employment Questions, Contact Brenton Legal, PA
If you have questions or concerns about your rights as a pregnant employee in Florida, the experienced employment law attorneys at Brenton Legal, PA, can help. We understand state and federal pregnancy employment laws and can provide invaluable legal advice, assess your situation, help you file a claim, and negotiate on your behalf. We pride ourselves on our compassion and professionalism and strive to offer representation you can count on. Let our skilled employment team fight for the resolution you deserve. Call us at 954-639-4644 for a free consultation. We’re here for you 24/7.