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Know your pregnancy rights

pregnant woman sitting at a desk smiling

When sharing your good news with coworkers, discrimination might be the last thing on your mind. But the truth is that many women are treated unfairly — or even fired — after revealing the news of their pregnancy. As long as a pregnant woman is able to perform the major functions of her job, not hiring or firing her because she is pregnant is against the law. It's against the law to dock her pay or demote her to a lesser position because of pregnancy. It's also against the law to hold back benefits for pregnancy because a woman is not married. All are forms of pregnancy discrimination, and all are illegal.

Women are protected under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. It says that businesses with at least 15 employees must treat women who are pregnant in the same manner as other job applicants or employees with similar abilities or limitations.

The Family and Medical Leave Act also protects the jobs of workers who are employed by companies with 50 employees or more and who have worked for the company for at least 12 months. These companies must allow employees to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave for medical reasons, including pregnancy and childbirth. Your job cannot be given away during this 12-week period.

Many state laws also protect pregnant women's rights.

These laws appear clear cut. But issues that arise on the job seldom are. Go to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website to learn more about your rights during pregnancy and what to do if you think your rights have been violated.

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Content last updated: September 27, 2010.

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