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Can My Employer Fire Me While I’m on Pregnancy Leave?

It seems like common sense that an employer should not be able to terminate an employee who misses work due to pregnancy.  Unfortunately, common sense does not always find its way into the law.  And, even in cases where the law does provide protection, employers don’t always follow the law. 

 So, if you are pregnant and anticipating a leave of absence from work, here’s what you need to know:

If your employer has 50 or more employees, within a 75 mile radius, and you have been employed with that employer for at least 12 months and have worked at least 1250 hours in the last 12 months, you are entitled to take leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).  The FMLA allows you to take up to 12 weeks of leave in any 12 month period for the birth (or adoption) of a child.  By the way, this goes for fathers too.

If you are eligible for FMLA, you should ask your employer for the appropriate paperwork to be completed in advance of your leave.  They should have a policy posted for your review.  Once you submit the paperwork, including a doctor’s certification, if requested, the employer is required to respond to your request for leave.  This response should inform you of your rights and responsibilities while on leave.

If you return to work within the 12 week time period the employer is required to restore you to your job or one like it.  If you don’t return within the 12 week time period – the employer IS NOT REQUIRED TO RESTORE YOU TO YOUR POSITION!!

What happens if your employer is not big enough to be covered by the FMLA or you haven’t worked there long enough to be eligible? 

The good news is that both Federal and State law forbid discrimination against a woman because she is pregnant.  If the employer normally grants medical leave or disability leave to comparable, non-pregnant, employees, then they can’t treat you differently because you are pregnant.  Check your employer’s handbook for policies pertaining to medical leave and sick leave.  If such a policy exists, make sure you follow all of the appropriate steps for requesting leave and document everything.  Also, employers are forbidden from engaging in pregnancy harassment.

If you are fired while on maternity leave, you should file for unemployment as soon as the doctor releases you to return to work.  The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) will want a copy of your release to show that you are able to return to work.  Then, call us.  We will explore all of the circumstances leading to your termination to determine whether you have a cause of action against your former employer.

 For more information on pregnancy discrimination go to:

 www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/pregnancy.cfm

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