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Legal protections for pregnant employees and new mothers

Under the provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act, a worker in New York can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave after giving birth. Upon returning to work, the worker should expect reinstatement to the same or equivalent position.

The Director of Workplace Equality with the National Women's Law Center said that FMLA allows for this 12-week period to be taken all at once or divided into two or more leaves of absence. While an employee is on leave, the employer must keep the employee enrolled in benefits such as health insurance. Before approving a leave, an employer can request a physician's approval. The employee should also give a 30-day advance notice.

Before the birth, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act outlaws discrimination on the job and applies to rate of pay, job duties, promotions, training and benefits. According to the act, employers must not favor a worker who is not pregnant over a pregnant worker. These legal protections not only include pregnant workers but women who have given birth or intend to become pregnant. Although both the FMLA and PDA specifically address the employment needs of pregnant women and new mothers, neither law forbids an employer from dismissing these workers as long as the employer's motivations and timing are not illegal.

A woman dismissed from her job before or after a pregnancy might have experienced discrimination. An attorney could evaluate the case to see if evidence for wrongful termination exists. Employment records could be requested by the attorney, who might also interview co-workers about the person's firing. If an employer violated employment laws, then the attorney could prepare a lawsuit. Compensation to cover lost pay and damage to career potential might be recoverable through this legal process.

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