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Rights To Life: Knowing What Rights You Have (In The Workforce) As An Expectant Parent.

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By Mia Bolaris-Forget

Are you concerned about what a new addition to your family will mean financially? Your concerns are not uncommon. In fact, many working moms and dad or moms and dads-to-be face the challenges of parenthood, including what (legal) rights they have, especially in the workforce. Here are a few you may want to be familiar with.

· Employers are required to treat pregnancy just like any other medical condition or employee disability: There is potentially one catch, the size of the company. However, if you’re employed by a company with 15 or more employees, it is illegal to discriminate against you because of your pregnancy, childbirth, or pregnancy-related conditions. Pregnancy should be treated as a temporary medical disability. Furthermore, you may also be protected by state and local laws addressing pregnancy discrimination.

· You can’t be fired or denied employment because you’re pregnant or may become pregnant: Employers may not fire, deny a job or promotion to pregnant women, or those with pregnancy-related issues and conditions, as long as they are able to effectively perform their duties and job. However, employers are also not accountable for making accommodations making it easier for a pregnant woman to carry out her tasks.

· You can not be forced out of your position as long as you are doing your job: Taking a leave of absence must be your decision and not your employers. Employers are not allowed to ask you to leave just because you are pregnant, as long as you are able to complete your assignments and your pregnancy is not affecting your performance. If a pregnant employee must take some time “off” because of a pregnancy-related condition, she can not be asked to extend her “leave”, if she recovers, until after the baby’s birth.

· Pregnant women have the same benefits as other employees with medical conditions: Pregnancy must be treated as a medical condition and pregnant women must be offered the same benefits, leave, and temporary disability insurance, as other employees with medical conditions or disabilities.

· You are allowed to take part of your maternity leave prior to your baby’s birth: As per the Family and Medical Leave Act, pregnant women are entitled to part of their unpaid maternity leave while they are still pregnant, of they are physically unable to do their job due to their pregnancy or pregnancy-related issues. According to the Act, your job will be protected for a maximum of 12 weeks, which includes time before and after birth. Keep in mind that The Family and Medical Leave Act applies under the following conditions:

The company has 50 or more employees or if it’s a local, state, or federal government job.

Plus

You need to have worked at your current position for at least one year or a minimum of 1,250 hours during the previous year.

· Partners of pregnant women are entitled to (pregnancy and pregnancy-related) coverage for their spouse if the company’s health plan includes this feature: An employer is prohibited from denying coverage for pregnancy care for a male employee and his spouse.

· Single mothers-to-be get the same benefits as their married counterparts: Pregnancy-related coverage may not be limited to married employees.

· You can expect job security for up to 12 weeks: According to FMLA you are allowed 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave each year in order to care for your newborn, your newly adopted infant, to care for a seriously ill family member, or to recover from your own significant health condition. Should you take advantage of this policy you are entitled to the same position or job with equal pay and benefits upon your return. You may also want to look into local or state laws that may offer more generous coverage and/or benefits. Remember, the FMLA affects you only if you work for a company or organization with 50 or more employees, a state, local, or federal government, and have been at your job for at least a year or 1,250 hours.

· Dads get benefits too: As per FMLA expectant fathers are also entitled to a maximum of 12 weeks unpaid paternity leave. You can choose to take your leave of absence together or at separate times (giving each of you a hand at parenthood). Both leaves must be taken with the child’s first year of birth.

· Entitlements for adoptive parents: Laws are not supposed to discriminate against adoptive parents. In fact, adoptive parents are entitled to the same 12 weeks of unpaid leave of absence as biological parents. Benefits generally begin when you first get custody of the child. If necessary however, employers must allow you to take your leave beforehand.

· Freedom of choice: Employers are expected to give YOU the choice of when and how you want to take your leave. You can take your leave all at once or in pre-discussed and approved intervals. Note however, that once you’ve physically recovered from childbirth, maternity/paternity leave must be taken with the year of your child’s birth.

· Choice Restrictions: While some states do protect a mother’s right to breastfeed her child on the job or in public places, not all states cover this option under federal law. You best bet is knowing your local breastfeeding legislation by logging onto www.laleceleague.org.

Knowing your rights is just the first step in making sure you get treated fairly or doing something about it. In the case you haven’t been treated fairly, professionals suggest taking the following actions:

· Keep a written record: Jot down a detailed account of the situation including date, time, place, person committing the “offense”, and specifics about the incident or conversation. Also include what was said who said it, and who was there. And, according to the experts it’s best to document details as close to the incident as possible.

· Make (Additional) Inquiries: Without making an issue or being too obvious, discuss your experiences with co-workers and get their feedback regarding similar situations. Ask for their opinions, recommendations or advice.

· Speak Up: Talk to your employer about the situation. Make sure he/she knows YOU are aware of your rights and the company’s responsibility. You also want to make sure the issue is addressed by the right person, check your employee handbook for specifics and details.

· Get more information: Once you’ve addressed the appropriate parties and still feel “victimized”, and like you may want to file a formal complaint or discrimination suit, you should know where to go and how to go about it. The best way to handle such complaints is by contacting the U.S. Equal employment Opportunity Commission’s nearest office (by calling 1-800-669-4000). You should also look in your local phone book for government pages to locate the nearest employment practices office you may be able to give your further guidance and assistance.

Some other important associations and numbers you should have handy include:

· National Partnership for Women & Families
202-986-2600; www.nationalpartnership.org

· Women's Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor
1-800-827-5335; www.dol.gov/dol/wb/

· U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
202-275-7377; www.eeoc.gov

· For information on the Family and Medical Leave Act: U.S. Department of Labor
1-800-959-FMLA.

Long Island Money & Careers Articles > Rights To Life: Knowing What Rights You Have (In The Workforce) As An Expectant Parent.

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