It is not uncommon for the joy of pregnancy to be offset by the fear of being fired when the boss finds out you are pregnant. It is true that pregnancy discrimination, and stereotypes about working mothers, are realities of the workplace. However, there are several Ohio and federal laws that protect pregnant women from discrimination and harassment at work.
The most obvious of these laws is the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, see 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(k), which makes pregnancy discrimination illegal under Title VII. Ohio has a similar law in Revised Code Chapter 4112, which is analyzed the same as the federal law. These laws of course forbid firing an employee simply because she is pregnant. For many pregnant employees though, the problem arises when they need pregnancy-related time off from work or other accommodations. In this regard, the pregnancy discrimination laws require employers to treat pregnant employees the same for all employment-related purposes as non-pregnant employees who have a similar ability (or inability) to work. Pregnant employees are not entitled to preferential treatment, but they are entitled to be treated the same as other employees whose ability to work is limited by conditions besides pregnancy. For instance, an employer that lets temporarily disabled (but non-pregnant) employees take leave without pay must let an employee who is temporarily disabled due to pregnancy do the same.
Another law protecting pregnant employees in the workplace is the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2601. We have previously written about its pregnancy-related protections on this blog, which you can read about here. Generally, for employees who qualify, the FMLA provides unpaid, but job-protected leave for pregnant employees both before and after childbirth.
Pregnant employees should also consider whether they are protected by Ohio or federal disability discrimination laws. A pregnancy without complications is not considered a disability under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §12101, or the Ohio disability discrimination laws in Revised Code Chapter 4112. If, however, the expecting mother has complications from the pregnancy – for example gestational diabetes or preeclampsia – she may be protected from discrimination and harassment on the basis of disability. In these cases, the pregnant employee may be entitled to job-protected leave even if the employer does not typically offer leave as part of its policies.
When expecting a baby, the last thing an employee needs to worry about is whether she’ll be fired when the employer finds out she is pregnant. Luckily, both Ohio and federal law offer some protections for pregnant employees, so that when the stork comes, it doesn’t also deliver a pink slip.