For employers, issues that pop up around pregnant employees or employees with pregnant spouses can cause substantial headaches. After all, while it is a joyous time, pregnancy means having one (or two) employees gone for potentially significant amounts of time over a 2-year period. However, we must always keep in mind that there are several laws (both state and federal) that protect both pregnant employees and their spouses.
Cannot be a basis for a negative action
First, the basic rule is that someone’s pregnancy cannot be the basis for taking any negative action. This means that employers cannot deny promotions or demote a pregnant employee simply because they will be out for a period of time.
Supervisors cannot give negative performance evaluations due to taking multiple pregnancy-related medical appointments, or give a poor performance rating immediately upon return from pregnancy-related leave.
Pregnancy-related medical leave and duty treatment
Employers also cannot make pregnancy-related medical leave harder to take than other types of medical leave, including leave based on work-related injuries. This includes who qualifies for light-duty work as well. For example, restricting light-duty or specific days off to only those who have work-related injuries is likely not legal.
Fathers have protections as well
Employers should also keep in mind that fathers have rights as well. This means that pregnancy-related leave policies cannot be differential between spouses or make these policies gender-based.
If a pregnant employee qualifies for 10 weeks of time off for pregnancy, the other parent is also similarly qualified. And, remember, each parent has 12 weeks of protected FMLA leave, which includes caring and bonding with the child.
Attempts not to cover
Employers who provide health insurance cannot exclude pregnancy-related items, the pregnancy itself, women’s WellCare, prescription contraceptives, birth control, etc. These must also be covered in the same way as any other prescription drug or device. There are some exemptions to this rule though, and if an employer wants to exclude contraceptives from their medical plan, they should consult an attorney.
For our Terrytown, New York, employer readers, this blog is yet another reminder that HR policies can not only affect employees themselves but also employer bottom lines. This happens when HR policies are illegal.