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(206) 442-9106

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Pregnancy at Work: Know your Rights!

Pregnancy-Discrimination-dont-quit11It’s positive!

These are two words that forever change a woman’s life. And as ten thousand questions run through your mind, one will certainly be “How will pregnancy and motherhood affect my career?”

Five questions arise again and again regarding workplace rights for pregnant women. These include the following:

1. Can I be fired for becoming pregnant?
The answer is NO. It’s illegal to terminate an employee because of her pregnancy. But be advised: if a company is in the midst of layoffs, you may be one of the positions to go, regardless of pregnancy status. And as in any circumstance, you can be fired or disciplined for routine performance issues.

 

2. How much leave do I get, and is it paid?
Under the Washington State Family Leave Act (FLA), workers are granted 12 weeks of leave. This law is an extension of the existing federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which also secures 12 weeks of leave for employees. Yet for either to apply, you must:

    • Work for a company that has 50 employees or more within a 75 mile radius
      and
    • Have been employed by that company for at least 12 months. These don’t have to be consecutive, but you must have logged at least 1,250 hours before your leave begins.

Moreover, Washington State Family Leave Act only goes into effect after your pregnancy disability has ended (which FMLA doesn’t account for), so depending on an individual’s medical situation over the course of her pregnancy, a woman might qualify for at least 18 weeks of leave.

Keep in mind, however, that none of these laws mandate PAID leave. A handful of employers may provide short-term disability pay, but by and large you’re on your own (start stashing away now!)

3. Does my employer have to hold my job for me?
The answer is yes and no. Employers are legally required to give workers the option of returning to their jobs, but they aren’t required to hold your exact same position open. If they decide not to put you back in your same position, they must offer a similar position to you.  This can be tricky, of course. You are advised to discuss the details of your situation with an Employment Attorney.
4. Am I required to notify my boss right away?
Once a pregnant employee is given an estimated due date, she is required to give the employer a minimum 30 days’ notice of the state of leave. In those unusual cases where a woman doesn’t realize she’s pregnant (every year brings several high-profile stories about surprise baby deliveries — in fact, it happens to about 2,500 women each year!), or in the case of adoptions where the placement occurs in less than 30 days, the law simply requires a worker to notify their supervisor as soon as possible.
5. How can a Worker’s Compensation Attorney help me?
If you feel your rights or benefits have been violated, contact an L&I Attorney at Emery Reddy immediately. We will investigate your complaint and represent your rights, including bringing a law suit for damages.

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