Here at A Better Balance, we receive calls from all over the country to our free legal clinic from people with questions about how to navigate the workplace while pregnant, and after giving birth. Many workers are unsure how to ask for a change at work when they are worried that a job duty could affect the health of their pregnancy. Here are some pointers for how to bring up your pregnancy in the workplace. (For more information, read our joint fact sheet with WorkLife Law).
First of all, there is no requirement for when you need to tell your employer that you are pregnant. You do not need to bring a note announcing your pregnancy, and it’s up to you if and when to disclose it. That said, if you are covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you will need to request leave at least 30 days in advance of taking off for childbirth. You may also need to disclose that you are pregnant in order to request an accommodation, or other kinds of leave.
If you do decide to tell your employer that you’re pregnant, or you need to disclose your pregnancy in order to request an accommodation or maternity leave, it’s good to review your employer’s policies. It is also helpful to assure your employer that you would like to keep working, and that you would like to return to work after you have the baby when you do break the news.
If you find that you need accommodations in order to work through your pregnancy, such as a stool to sit on, a water bottle to stay hydrated, or more frequent restroom and food breaks, it’s helpful, and sometimes required, to get a note from your medical provider explaining your need (though in some places, such as New York City, Minnesota, and Utah, employers cannot require notes for certain accommodation requests). If you need ideas for accommodations that might help you manage your health needs, you can refer your boss to the Job Accommodation Network for more information. In addition, you can use the dropdown box on pregnantatwork.org, under “Getting Help From Your Healthcare Provider,” and share the advice with your doctor in order to help her write effective notes to accompany your accommodation request.
The process for requesting an accommodation can be different depending on where you work. Some states and cities have laws that specifically require employers to accommodate pregnant workers. In areas of the country that do not have those laws, workers instead must rely on a patchwork of other laws for support. Visit babygate.abetterbalance.org for state-by-state information to find out the process for requesting an accommodation in your specific area.
Keep in mind that a conversation about accommodations should be a two-way street—your boss must engage with you. Make sure to get exchanges with your boss about your pregnancy-related needs in writing when possible, and feel free to send a follow-up email in order to keep a record.
Lastly, remember that unfair treatment based on pregnancy (such as firing you or cutting your hours upon learning that you are pregnant) is illegal. If you experience unfair treatment in the workplace or if you have questions about the information in this blog post, you can call our free legal clinic at 212-430-5982 (615-915-2417 for our Southern Office) for assistance.
Please note that these laws are complex and this post is not intended to provide legal advice. Please consult with a local attorney or call our free legal clinic if you have questions about your rights.