What to Expect When You Work and Are Expecting: Understanding Your Rights

When you’re a pregnant working professional, life at work can be a little stressful. Pregnancy isn’t easy to begin with, and on top of that, you risk being discriminated against simply because you’re pregnant. Because of this, it’s important to understand your rights as a pregnant employee so you can defend yourself properly if such an incident occurs. So here’s what you need to know:

Discrimination is Illegal

Times have changed since an employer could ask a woman if she was pregnant and make his hiring determination because of her answer. Based on pregnancy status, it's illegal to deny someone a job, demote, decrease pay rate or terminate employment. If your exact job is not available to you after maternity leave, you must be offered an equal or better job with equal or greater pay.

You Are Entitled to Maternity Leave

State laws regarding maternity leave differ, but there are some situations that every state addresses. Regardless of your place in your company's organization, you are entitled to the amount of maternity leave specified in your state's guidelines. It is illegal to use bullying tactics to intimidate a woman who is contemplating maternity leave or discriminate against her when she returns. Causing your work environment to be hostile in any way due to your pregnancy can be grounds for the dismissal of the person who instigates the situation.

Sexual Harassment Can Still Happen

People generally want to be helpful to pregnant women. The more advanced your pregnancy, the more help you will probably be offered. Unfortunately, you might also get some offers that are somewhat creepy and illegal as well. Pregnancy does not put you out of harm's way when it comes to sexual predators. Whether you're pregnant or not, being hit on when you have not invited it is not allowed in the workplace. A coworker may be more helpful than necessary, let his eyes linger on your fuller body or touch your belly without your consent. If you feel uncomfortable with someone at work, discuss it with your superior or human resources.

In general, pregnancy puts you in a somewhat vulnerable space. You want to protect your child and you deserve to be treated with respect at all times. Just remember that you have rights and resources that can help you if an incident occurs. 

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