Anticipating the arrival of new baby is exciting. Less exciting is the potentially daunting task of informing your employer of your pregnancy and desire to take leave. It can be challenging to determine when the right moment is to share the news. Ultimately, this is a personal and circumstantial decision to make. You will likely consider your role, post-partum plans, workplace culture, and key players. Take solace in the fact that you may be entitled to protections under the Massachusetts Parental Leave Act, the Massachusetts Fair Employment Practices Act, at the federal level under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Pregnancy Discrimination Act, all of which prohibit covered employers from terminating employees due to pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions. While there are many answers to the ultimate question of when to break the news, below are four recommended tenets to follow as you decide for yourself.
1.When you are comfortable doing so. It sounds obvious, but many people need to hear it. You should never disclose your pregnancy before you are before it feels like the right time to you. Many people don’t share the news with family and friends early in their pregnancies or until a certain number of weeks have elapsed. Don’t feel obligated to tell your employer before you would tell other people in your life. This applies no matter how loyal of an employee you are.
2.When you need an accommodation. The law requires employers to treat pregnant employees the same as nonpregnant employees who are temporarily disabled for other reasons. For example, if your employer offers a work from home option to all employees who need to do so for other reasons, you are entitled to the same treatment. If your doctor advises you that you need accommodations at work, let your employer know. The law requires covered employers to engage in an “interactive process” with you to determine how your needs can be accommodated. Work with your employer to determine how you can continue to succeed at work despite your need for modifications. You may need to provide a doctor’s note or fill out paperwork.
3.When you’re planning your leave. Just as you are planning how long to take, and who will take care of your new baby once you return to the workplace, most employers will appreciate the time to plan who will do your work in your absence. Don’t forget, if you take leave under state or federal law, you are entitled to return to the same or similar job with the same compensation when you go back to work.
4.When you want protections under the law. It may sound like a contradiction, but if you fear any reprisal from your employer, putting your employer on notice of your pregnancy is the best thing you can do to protect your rights. If you think you will be terminated, demoted, or retaliated against, document your pregnancy in writing to your supervisor and HR. Should your fears come to fruition, you will have more rights than if your employer never had notice that you were expecting. Retaliation can be subtle. For example, pregnant salespeople have reported having their best accounts diverted away from them after putting their employer on notice. This constitutes retaliation. Other times, retaliation is more obvious. It could be in the form of a demotion, or at worst, a termination.
There are state and federal laws that protect pregnant people from discrimination in the workplace. Read our short guide on the FMLA. If you think that you have been subjected to discrimination or retaliation because of your pregnancy or need for leave, contact our office for a consultation.
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These 5 points regarding the rights of pregnant women at work may be useful, but this general overview does not cover all situations involving discriminatory acts. Employers engage in many types of misconduct, either through intentional acts or mistake.
If you have questions or would like to know more about your rights under federal and Massachusetts pregnancy discrimination laws, please contact the Boston-based litigation law firm of Rodman Employment Law at 617.820.5250. We can schedule a consultation to discuss your circumstances and tell you more about your legal remedies.