Deciding when to have a family or expand your existing one can be difficult. There are a lot of factors to consider, including expenses, parenting time and, of course, your career. Maybe you have been planning this pregnancy or perhaps it was a wonderful surprise. Regardless, you've decided the time is right, and you're going to have a baby. Now you have to worry about what will happen with your job.
While employers are not legally allowed to discriminate against pregnant women or mothers, many of them still do so. Your co-workers or managers could harass you, making you and your growing belly the butt of workplace jokes. Your employer could refuse basic medical accommodations, putting you and your baby at risk. You could even end up getting fired for choosing to have a child.
New parents should receive medical and maternity leave
The Unites States is one of few developed nations that does not require paid maternity leave. Unless your employer offers paid leave as a benefit, you will be out of income when you're home with your baby. If you have worked for the same employer for the last 12 months, you can receive 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for your new child.
You may also need medical accommodations while pregnant, including less lifting and less stress. In some cases where serious medical conditions like pre-eclampsia develop, expectant mothers may require bed rest and additional leave before the birth of the baby. Your employer should accommodate those needs, as well as your eventual return to work after the birth of your baby and your maternity leave.
Pregnancy is a protected medical condition
Under federal law, specifically the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, pregnant employees are protected from discrimination, termination and other forms of mistreatment. Your employer cannot consider your pregnancy when assigning promotions, considering pay raises or making decisions about layoffs and downsizing.
Sadly, many employers may still mistreat women who are expecting a baby or who have recently given birth. While your employer may not outright say the issues come from your pregnancy, if you've been treated poorly or are suddenly getting bad reviews or complaints without a change in your work performance, it could be discrimination. You should report harassment and discrimination to human resources. Sometimes, this will resolve the issue. In other situations, you could face increased discrimination as a result of your report.
Documenting mistreatment, harassment and similar issues can help protect your rights. As soon as you realize your employer has an issue with your pregnancy, try your best to make accurate and detailed records about each occurrence of discrimination or harassment. That way, if you get fired or have to go to court, you have evidence of the mistreatment you experienced.