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New Moms at Your Workplace? Know These 5 Laws

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

Everyone has a mom, and every small business owner needs to know the laws that protect and provide for their new mom employees.

Employers should strive to be vigilant and current in their understanding of the federal and state laws relating to motherhood and the workplace. Here are five laws that can be particularly important for business owners:

1. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

Passed in 1978, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act amended federal law to prohibit pregnancy discrimination under Title VII. This Act clarified that businesses which discriminate against pregnant women are essentially discriminating based on sex, and that both are prohibited.

The following are examples of pregnancy discrimination that employers will want to avoid:

  • Derogatory comments about pregnant women or pregnancy,
  • Denying promotion to a pregnant employee, and
  • Reducing responsibilities based on a woman's pregnant status.

2. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Passed under the Clinton administration, the FMLA requires most employers to provide employees with certain minimum amounts of time off for family or medical emergencies.

So if an employee has a baby or even adopts a child, an employer bound by the FMLA must provide the worker with:

  • Up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off,
  • Continued health insurance benefits during that time off, and
  • Their equivalent position once the employee returns to work.

Employers should also be prepared to offer FMLA time off for women who may have complications due to pregnancy.

3. Breastfeeding-at-Work Laws.

The idea of an employee breastfeeding in the workplace may make a business owner uncomfortable, but under federal law, in most cases you must provide a non-bathroom space and break time for a mother to breastfeed for up to a year after her child is born. (There are many exceptions to this law, however.)

State laws vary on this subject. For example, Colorado requires accommodation for breastfeeding moms for up to two years after a child's birth.

4. The Americans With Disability Act (ADA).

Pregnancy can also be considered a disability under the ADA, a law which requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accomodations for a disability that affects work.

Employers should craft workplace policies which allow for less physical work, longer breaks, or less standing in the case of pregnant employees.

5. State Laws About Pregnancy and 'Disability.'

Depending on the state your business is located in, you may also need to comply with additional state requirements for pregnancy disability.

Employers in California, for example, should be familiar with the state's Pregnancy Disability Leave Law. The law allows up to four months of pregnancy leave which can be taken at any time over a one-year period.

To make sure you're complying with employment laws regarding new moms in your state, you may want to consult an experienced employment lawyer near you.

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