If a pregnant woman or a woman who has just given birth needs time off from work, she may be entitled to do so under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Under this system, employees are allowed to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Individuals may need to provide 30 days' notice as well as provide a doctor's note or some other evidence of the need to take leave.
Employers who provide health coverage must continue to provide it under the same terms and conditions while an employee is out of work. As a general rule, employers may fire workers for performance reasons while out on leave. Therefore, a pregnant woman or one who has just given birth could theoretically be terminated while on maternity leave depending on the facts of the case and the timing of the termination.
However, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act does provide some protection for those who are pregnant or who have just given birth. It also prevents employment discrimination against those who may plan to get pregnant or have been pregnant in the past. The federal law ensures that they cannot be treated differently than others who may leave work because of a disability or differently than those who have comparable skills in the workplace.
Workers who feel that they received unfair treatment in the workplace may wish to talk with an attorney. It may be possible to review performance records, recorded conversations or email conversations with supervisors or other evidence that may establish that a worker was treated differently merely because of a pregnancy. If successful, a pregnant worker may be entitled to back pay and reinstatement after a wrongful termination.