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 have need to take time off for recovery. U.S., Oregon, and local laws can help you stay healthy at work, give you time off when you need it, and protect you from 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.
- Oregon Anti-Discrimination Law also bans pregnancy and childbirth discrimination. It covers employers with six or more employees.
- If your spouse or partner is pregnant, you also may be protected from employment discrimination based on her pregnancy. That’s because the law prohibits employers from discriminating based on the sex, marital status, and sexual orientation (among other characteristics) of any other person with whom you associate.
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.
- Under Oregon law, if you work for an employer with six or more employees and 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 (an “undue hardship”). This means:
- Your boss can’t fire you because you asked for a chair to sit on 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.
- Reasonable accommodations may include, but are not limited to: more frequent or longer breaks; temporarily transferring to a less strenuous or hazardous vacant position, if qualified; providing job restructuring or light duty; providing a private space that is not a bathroom for expressing breast milk; and others.
- For more information about your rights under this law, click here.
- 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.
- Oregon Anti-Discrimination Law also bans disability discrimination. It covers employers with six or more employees.
- 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” tab for more information or see this guide to your workplace rights around miscarriage.
- You may also be entitled to Leave for Pregnancy and Childbirth. If you work for an employer with 25 or more employees, you may be entitled to 12 weeks of job-protected leave to deal with illness and inability to work related to pregnancy or childbirth. This is in addition to the 12 weeks of leave you may take under the OFLA (discussed under the next tab) to care for and bond with a newborn baby.
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.
- Oregon has a law that is very similar to the FMLA but covers a few more workers— the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA).
- You are eligible for OFLA leave if 1) your workplace has 25 or more employees (the FMLA requires 50); 2) you have worked for your employer for at least 180 days (the FMLA requires a year); and 3) you have worked at least 25 hours per week during the 180 days before you take OFLA leave.
- If you are covered, OFLA gives you the right to take up to 12 weeks, within a 1-year period, of unpaid, job-protected family and medical leave to 1) recover from or seek treatment for your own serious health condition (which includes pregnancy); 2) care for a family member (including a grandparent or grandchild, parent-in-law,or domestic partner or child of a domestic partner) with a serious health condition; 3) care for a newborn or newly adopted child; or 4) care for a child who is sick (but not seriously ill) and needs care at home.
- Even if you use the full 12 weeks of leave to care for your new baby, you are still entitled to take as many as 12 additional weeks to care for a sick child in the same year.
- In addition, Oregon’s Paid Sick Time law allows paid sick leave to be used to bond with a newborn, newly adopted, or newly placed foster child under 18 within the first 12 months of birth or placement. You can read more about Oregon’s Paid Sick Time law under the “Returning to Work” tab and here.
- 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 Oregon 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 Oregon disability laws, discussed in 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.
- You have the right to Express or Pump Milk at Work for up to 18 months after your child’s birth. If your workplace has 25 or more employees, you are entitled to reasonable unpaid breaks (generally 30 minutes every 4 hours) to express breast milk while at work. Your employer must also make reasonable efforts to provide a private location, other than a restroom or toilet stall, for you to express milk.
- Rights for breastfeeding moms are strong in Oregon, but national laws may also protect you (for example, if you work outside Oregon):
- 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 Oregon law, you have the right to Breastfeed Your Child in any public location.
- 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” tab for more information on this law.
- Oregon has a Paid Sick Time law that allows you to stay home if you or your family member is sick, or needs to visit the doctor, without losing your job.
- If your employer has 10 or more employees, or 6 or more employees in Portland, you have the right to take up to 40 hours of paid sick time a year, that you can use for your own or a family member’s health needs (like an illness or a check-up).
- If your employer has fewer than 10 employees, or fewer than 6 employees in Portland, you still have the right to up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time.
- Sick time can be used for yourself or to care for a family member for pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum care, as well as preventive medical care (like a yearly check-up).
- Under this law, you earn sick time at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours you work 1 and 1/3 hours for every 40 hours worked.
- Sick time under this law can also be used when a worker’s place of work or child’s school/place of care is closed by public health officials for a public health emergency.
- You can read more about the paid sick time law here.
- In Oregon, if you lose your job because of the illness or disability of an immediate family member (spouse, domestic partner, parent, or minor child), you may still be able to get Unemployment Insurance.
- Some workers in Oregon are protected from Caregiver Discrimination.
- 8 localities in Oregon, including Portland, prohibit employment discrimination based on familial status or family responsibilities. Check the link above to find out whether your city or county provides you with any protections.
- If you are covered by the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA), you have the right to use any accrued sick leave or other paid leave to care for a new child, a seriously ill family member, or a sick child who requires home care.
- 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. Oregon Anti-Discrimination Law also prohibits employers with 6 or more employees from discriminating against a worker because of his or her association with a disabled person.
- OFLA, was amended in 2013 to cover up to 2 weeks of leave for the death of a family member, including time for a funeral or other service, making arrangements necessitated by the death of the family member, and time for grieving. This leave must be completed within 60 days of receiving notice of the family member’s death.