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Maternity Leave and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act

It’s no secret that there are some serious disparities in the workplace where female employees are concerned. Women still earn significantly less money than men while performing the same jobs, and there are far fewer women enjoying positions of authority than men across all industries. It’s an issue that has received a ton of attention, and rightly so. The days of women being expected to get pregnant, maintain the house and let the man do all the work are long gone. Women carry a ton of weight in this economy, and drive innovation across a number of industries. Things may not be perfect, but they are getting better. And one piece of legislation responsible for that improvement is the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978. Here are a few of the ways maternity leave is protected by the pregnancy discrimination act.

The goal of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act is to make sure that women are not treated unfairly in the workplace just because they are pregnant. Basically, women shouldn’t have to be afraid of getting a job, or fear losing their job or seeing their salary cut just because they have plans to get pregnant. The act deems that an employer who fires an employee because of pregnancy or some sort of medical condition that arises out of that pregnancy is practicing sexual discrimination.

The act was added on to 1964′s Civil Rights Act, meaning pregnancy discrimination in the workplace is considered the same as discriminating against someone due to their race, religion, nationality, age or color. It’s a civil rights issue, and any employer that doesn’t allow for maternity leave will be brought up on charges, and will have to face the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. So how does this play out when it comes to maternity leave?

First of all, a pregnant employee must be allowed to remain at work for as long as she can effectively perform her job. The maternity leave must be by choice, and the employee can come back to work at their discretion. So as long as she can continue her job, she can choose to work right up until the childbirth, and return as soon after delivery as she chooses. If the maternity leave continues for a significant length of time and it begins to put the company at some sort of a disadvantage, the company must follow the same rules it has in place for disability leave.

In fact, any absence due to pregnancy will be treated the same way as a short-term disability situation. The policy of the company will come into play in this instance. But in general, most jobs allow a temporarily disabled employee to adjust their work schedule, work remotely or modify their daily workload. The same goes for pregnant employees. If the company does not pay disabled employees during their leave of absence, a pregnant employee can choose the same structure. But her job may not be put in jeopardy because of that leave of absence.

If the company provides health insurance to its employees, that insurance must cover any pregnancy expenses with the exact same structure as any other medical condition. Expenses should be reimbursed, and the deductible limit cannot be changed. Some pregnancy-related medical issues don’t have to be covered, however. Expenses surrounding an abortion, or the banking of cord blood with a California cryobank will not be included, and will remain the responsibility of the families themselves.

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