Employers are familiar with the provisions of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave for serious medical conditions. Since FMLA is only applicable to companies with 50 or more employees in a 75 mile radius, smaller companies will fall under a lesser known law called the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Under the Act, discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions is a Title VII violation. People affected by pregnancy or related conditions must be treated the same as other similarly situated employees. Below are highlights of the Act:
- As long as the employee can still perform the essential functions of the job (with or without reasonable accommodation), companies cannot refuse to hire a person based on pregnancy.
- As long as the employee is able to perform job duties, the company may not limit or change the job, or force leave on a person because of pregnancy.
- Health insurance must cover pregnancy related conditions.
Pregnant employees must be treated the same as any other employee who is facing a temporary disability. This includes:
- Allowing the employee to take leave for the birth or complications (generally six weeks minimum is acceptable, unless your company policy allows more time).
- Retaining the same or similar job for the employee’s return.
- Treating the continuation of benefits, PTO accrual, and bonuses the same as you would for another employee on leave for a temporary health condition.