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Can your employer fire you for requesting maternity leave?

On Behalf of | Jan 3, 2023 | Employment Discrimination

Pregnancy will take its toll on even the healthiest woman’s body. Some women experience morning sickness that leaves them weak during early pregnancy. Others have issues with gestational diabetes or high blood pressure that put their safety in the health of their unborn baby at risk.

Thankfully, many women are able to endure the demands of pregnancy with minimal medical support and only require leave to recover from the arduous delivery process. If you are expecting a child, you may hope to take a leave of absence from your job.

Can your employer fire you for requesting time off to recover from childbirth?

Pennsylvania law does not guarantee leave

Unfortunately for pregnant women and new mothers, neither Pennsylvania state law nor federal law inherently guarantees the right to maternity leave. Whether or not employers offer paid leave is entirely at the company’s discretion. Thankfully, a large number of women have protection for at least 12 weeks of unpaid leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

However, for a woman to qualify for such leave, the situation must meet strict standards. She needs to have worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months before becoming pregnant for the FMLA to apply, and her employer also needs to have at least 50 employees within 75 miles of where she works. Those who work for very small businesses or who are at a new job may not qualify for leave under the FMLA.

Those who have FMLA protection can have up to 12 weeks of leave and can then return to the same job or a comparable one. It will be illegal for the employer to punish or retaliate against a new mother who takes FMLA leave as permitted under the law. However, if the FMLA does not apply and the company does not have a maternity leave policy, a woman could potentially lose her employment for taking an extended leave of absence following childbirth.

Knowing your rights will help you assert them

From determining if the FMLA applies in your case to reviewing your employer’s handbook for the company policy, there are numerous steps that a woman can take to make use of her rights when pregnant and hoping to protect her employment. Those who worry that their employer may potentially discriminate against them can take care to comply with company policy and to document their actions so that they can fight back if pregnancy discrimination or retaliation does occur.

Knowing what laws protect you as an expectant mother can help you fight back against pregnancy discrimination and other forms of unfair conduct by employers.