skip to Main Content

Illinois

Breastfeeding
Pregnancy
Caregiver Discrimination
Parental Involvement in Children’s Education
Public-Sector Workers
Equal Pay
Unemployment Insurance

Pregnancy/Pregnancy Loss

Staying healthy at work while you are pregnant is sometimes challenging: you may be dealing with morning sickness, back pain, or doctor’s appointments every few weeks. For women who have suffered a miscarriage, you may need time off for recovery. U.S., Illinois, and local laws can help you stay healthy at work, give you time off when you need it, and protect you from pregnancy discrimination.

Pregnancy Discrimination

  • The Pregnancy Discrimination Act makes it illegal for any employer in the U.S. with 15 or more workers to treat employees unfairly because they are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or have experienced a pregnancy loss. That means:
    • Your boss can’t fire you or cut your hours when she finds out that you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant—you have the right to keep working as long as you can still do your job. You also have the right to be free from harassment at work because you are pregnant.
    • You cannot be asked about your pregnancy or plans to have children in a job interview.
    • Your employer can’t treat you differently from other workers just because you are pregnant or have had a miscarriage. The Supreme Court just decided a case where they clarified what this means. The Court said that employers may not put a “significant burden” on pregnant employees. How do you know what’s a significant burden? Start looking around at how your employer treats other non-pregnant employees who have needed an accommodation at work. For example, does your employer have a policy of giving light duty only to those with on-the-job injuries? Or did they have no problem helping out folks with non-pregnancy related disabilities, but sent all the pregnant women out onto unpaid leave? If so, this could be evidence of pregnancy discrimination. Since we are still waiting for further clarification of how this standard works, it’s best to collect all the evidence you can (policies, employee handbooks or manuals, digging around to find out how others have been treated) and to discuss your particular situation with an attorney.
  • The Illinois Human Rights Act also bans discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions, and covers workplaces with 1 or more employees. Women affected by pregnancy or childbirth must be treated the same as other, similar workers.

Workplace Accommodations

If you need changes at work to stay healthy on the job, the laws below can help. In addition, click the green button to learn how to talk with your boss about your pregnancy and request an accommodation if you need one.

Talk with your boss about your bump

 

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act makes it illegal for employers in the U.S. with 15 or more employees to discriminate against disabled workers.  Some pregnancy-related conditions, such as preeclampsia or gestational diabetes, are considered disabilities under the law. This means:
    • Your boss cannot fire you, refuse to give you a promotion, or harass you because you have a pregnancy-related disability.
    • If you have a pregnancy-related disability, your boss cannot refuse to give you small changes at work that you need to stay healthy, like breaks to take medication, temporary relief from heavy lifting, or a stool to sit on during your shift. These changes are called “reasonable accommodations” and are available as long as you can still complete the basic duties of your job with those changes.  Your boss does not have to give you an accommodation that would be very difficult or expensive, like building a whole new office.
    • Although pregnancy, by itself, is not considered a “disability,” some conditions of pregnancy may be disabilities so check with a lawyer to see whether you have a right to an accommodation at work.
  • The Illinois Human Rights Act also bans disability discrimination at workplaces with 1 or more employees.
  • The Pregnancy Accommodations Law in Illinois provides important additional protections to pregnant workers. Under the law, which applies in work places with 1 or more employees, if you need a “reasonable accommodation” because of your pregnancy or childbirth, your employer has to give it to you unless it would be really difficult or expensive. This means:
    • Your boss can’t just fire you if you ask for a bigger uniform or light duty while you are pregnant—she has to give you what you need to stay healthy at work, unless your employer can show that it would seriously harm the business.
    • You may be required to provide a doctor’s note about your need for the accommodation.
    • Your employer cannot force you to accept an accommodation you did not ask for, or force you to go on leave, while you are pregnant.
    • For more information about the law, click here.
  • If you are covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act, you have the right to take time off during pregnancy or after experiencing a miscarriage without losing your job. See the “Leaving Work for Childbirth and Bonding” section under the next tab for more information or see this guide to your workplace rights around miscarriage.
  • Illinois’ new pregnancy accommodations law (see above) may give you the right to unpaid time off work as a “reasonable accommodation.”

Leaving Work for Childbirth & Bonding

The U.S. is one of the only countries in the world with no law guaranteeing women the right to paid leave for childbirth. However, you may have the right to take unpaid leave for childbirth and return to your job.

Leave for Childbirth and Adoption

The law may protect your job while you are taking leave after childbirth or adoption.

  • If you are covered, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off of work per year for a family health emergency or to take care of a new baby— without losing your job (or your health insurance, if you have it).
    • Only about half of all private sector workers in the U.S. are covered by the law! You must 1) work for the government or a company with 50 or more employees within 75 miles of your worksite and 2) have worked with your employer for at least 1 year and 3) have worked at least 1,250 hours in the year before taking leave.
    • If you are covered, you can use the 12 weeks to care for your own health (including pregnancy), to care for a new child after birth, adoption, or foster placement, or to care for a seriously ill family member. Remember that you only get 12 weeks a year in total—if you take time off before you give birth for your own health needs, you’ll have less time afterward to spend with your baby.
    • Before giving birth, you may use your leave an hour or day at a time—such as by taking a day off per week to go to the doctor— rather than all at once. Your employer must approve, however, if you want to use leave time in smaller chunks to bond with your baby.
    • While you are on leave, you have the right to keep your benefits. When you return to work, you have the right to return to the same or a similar job.
    • If you are in the top 10% of highest-paid workers in your company, different rules apply.
  • If your boss treats workers who take time off for childbirth differently from workers who take time off for other medical treatments (for example, she gives most workers 2 weeks off for surgery but only 1 week for childbirth), this could be illegal under the national Pregnancy Discrimination Act and Illinois discrimination laws. Call A Better Balance if you think you are being treated unfairly.

Returning to Work: Recovery, Nursing, and Sick Time

When you return to work as a new parent, you may still need a few extra breaks to pump breastmilk or time off to care for your baby when he’s sick. There are a few laws that can help you get back to work safely and still care for your family.

Returning from Childbirth

  • If you are disabled for a period of time after childbirth, the Americans with Disabilities Act and Illinois disability laws, discussed under the “While You’re Pregnant” tab, may apply.
    • If so, you may be able to get an accommodation at work, such as light duty, while you recover.
  • Even if you are not disabled, Illinois’ pregnancy accommodations law, discussed under the “While You’re Pregnant” tab, may give you a right to accommodations while you recover from childbirth.

Nursing Rights

  • If your workplace has more than 5 employees, the Illinois Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act requires your employer to give you breaks to pump breast milk and try to find you a private space, other than a toilet stall, to pump. Your employer also cannot reduce your compensation for the time you spend pumping.
  • Rights for breastfeeding moms are strong in Illinois, but national laws may also protect you (for example, if you work outside Illinois):
    • The Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) gives some U.S. workers the right to take unpaid breaks at work to pump milk, and requires some employers to find a clean, private place that’s not a bathroom for employees to pump milk. This law only applies to workers and employers who are covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)— the law that sets minimum wage and overtime requirements.
  • It may be illegal under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act for your boss to punish or discriminate against you because you are lactating.
  • Under the Illinois Right to Breastfeed Act, you have the right breastfeed in any public or private location, although the law mentions that mothers should follow the norms of a particular place of worship if they want to breastfeed there.
  • For more information about your nursing rights, click here.

Caring for Your Family: Family Illness and Caregiver Discrimination

As a new parent, you may face discrimination at work or have problems taking time off when you or your baby is sick. These laws can help you balance your job and caring for your family.

  • If you are covered by the FMLA, you have the right to take time off to care for a seriously ill family member. See the “Leaving Work for Childbirth and Bonding” section above for more information on this law.
  • If you work in Chicago, you may have the right to take up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year. Sick time can be used to care for your own or your family’s medical needs. Workers earn this time at the rate of 1 hour of sick time for every 40 hours worked.
    • Family members covered by the law are: children; parents; grandchildren; grandparents; spouses; domestic partners; parents of a spouse or domestic partner; siblings; and any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association is the equivalent of a family relationship.
    • Chicago’s paid sick time law can also be used for “safe time” purposes related to domestic violence, sexual violence, or stalking when the worker or the worker’s family member is the victim.
  • If you work in Cook County, you may have the right to take up to 40 hours of paid sick time a year. Sick time in can be used to care for your own or your family’s medical needs. Workers earn this time at the rate of 1 hour of sick time for every 40 hours worked.
    • Family members covered by the law are: children; parents; grandchildren; grandparents; spouses; domestic partners; parents of a spouse or domestic partner; siblings; and any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association is the equivalent of a family relationship.
    • Cook County’s paid sick time law can also be used for “safe time” purposes related to domestic violence, sexual violence, or stalking when the worker or the worker’s family member is the victim.
  • To see if you are the type of worker that is covered by these laws, you can read more about the paid sick time laws here .
  • In Illinois, an employer of any size that provides sick time to employees must let you use the amount of sick time you normally accrue during 6 months to care for a sick family member (rather than your own illness). This is known as the Kin Care law.
    • A family member under the Kin Care law includes a child, spouse, domestic partner, sibling, parent, parent-in-law, grandchild, grandparent, or stepparent.
  • If you are covered by the School Visitation Rights Act, you have the right to take unpaid time off to attend your child’s school-related activities.
    • To be eligible, you must 1) work at an employer with 50 or more employees in Illinois, and 2) have worked for at least 6 consecutive months before making a request, and 3) have worked at least half the number of hours that a full-time employee works for your employer.
    • If you are eligible, you have the right to take 8 hours of unpaid leave from work per year (though no more than 4 hours in a given day) to attend school conferences or classroom activities for your child, if the activities can’t be scheduled during non-work hours.
    • Before you can use this leave time, you have to exhaust any vacation, personal, or other paid leave—but not sick or disability leave.
    • You have to request this leave in writing at least 7 days in advance, or 24 hours in advance in the case of emergency.
  • In Illinois, if you leave your job because you need to take care of a sick or disabled family member, you may still be able to get Unemployment Insurance.
  • Caregiver Discrimination is illegal in a few localities in Illinois. For example, in Chicago your employer cannot discriminate against you because you are a parent. Click the link for the complete list.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act also bans unfair treatment of workers based on their relationship with a disabled person. For example, your boss can’t cut your hours because he thinks you can’t work as hard because you have a child with asthma. However this law does not give relatives of a disabled person the right to accommodations, such as a schedule change, to help them provide care.

Call A Better Balance if you are having problems at work because you are pregnant or parenting

Our free hotline can provide you with information about your rights at work (or refer you to another attorney or legal organization in your area). The information provided here or in response to a Hotline inquiry does not constitute legal advice and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. If ABB chooses to represent you, then a retainer will be signed setting out the scope of the representation.

Call 1-833-NEED-ABB

Back To Top