Be sure to read our article on Wisconsin’s Fair Employment Law in our July newsletter Here. Because I think it’s important for everyone to understand their rights under employment law, I intend to describe specfic aspects of employment law within weekly blogs. I hope this information is helpful not only to the employees in protecting their rights but also to employers in implementing the law.
This week let’s take a deeper look into pregnancy in the workplace, and the rights of both females and males. Pregnancy is a happy and exciting time for a family, sometimes though, pregnancy can be a time of worry and uncertainty. The worry of what the future may bring can create stress for you individually, or for the whole family. I the hopes of putting some of your uncertainty to rest, according to Wisconsin and Federal Laws, your job, or the ability for you to be hired, is safe. It is considered discrimination when a pregnant employee is treated less favorably than an employer would otherwise treat an employee with a temporary disability. In fact, an employer cannot make employment decisions based on any pregnancy related condition.
In regards to the hiring process, an employer cannot refuse to hire a woman because she is pregnant. As long as the woman meets the qualifications required for the job, she may not be denied employment, and she is not required to tell the employer that she is pregnant. During the interview process it is most likely illegal for an employer to ask a woman if she is pregnant or planning on having children in the near future. An employer cannot ask a question that applies to only one group of applicants and not to another. If any of these questions are asked and the job is not given, it could be considered discriminatory.
When in the workforce, it is the employer’s and employee’s obligation to treat a pregnant employee in the same way as they would treat all temporarily disabled employees. This means you may have to modify tasks, provide alternative assignments, provide disability leave, or leave without pay. A rule of thumb is that an employer should provide the same benefits to employees “disabled” by pregnancy, as it provides to all other temporarily disabled persons. In fact, employers with 50 or more permanent employees must allow up to six weeks of family leave in a 12-month period, without pay, for the birth of the employee’s child if the leave begins within 16 weeks of the child’s birth.
Additionally, an employer may not discharge, refuse to hire, or discipline a woman because she has or is contemplating terminating a pregnancy, or because she is pregnant and not married. The same maternity insurance benefits must be provided to all pregnant employees, no matter their marital status. In short, an employer cannot discriminate in its employment practices against a woman because of any pregnancy-related conditions.
During pregnancy, an employer cannot force an employee to take maternity leave at any point, unless she is unable to perform her job duties. The time and length of the employee’s leave should be determined between the employee and her doctor. An employer must hold a pregnant employee’s job open upon her return from maternity leave on the same basis as the jobs being held for employees on sick or disability leave. This applies to both male and female employees who take a temporary leave due to pregnancy.
In regards to disability coverage and other insurance questions, employers are required to provide disability coverage for pregnant employees on the same basis they provide for any other temporary disability condition. With this, disability income protection and medical expense insurance will cover pregnancy related issues as well as healthcare expenses, as they would for any other temporary disability. If the employer does not have any disability coverage for their employees, they are not obligated to provide coverage for pregnancy. The employer only has to provide pregnant employees the same benefits as they do to all temporarily disabled employees.
It is important to remember that even though you are pregnant, your employer can still legally discipline or terminate your position. In order for this to happen, the employer must prove that the termination was due to neglect of job duties or due to failure to follow work rules. In the matter or either event, the employer must have proper documentation of the employee’s actions, or lack of.
If you have any questions regarding pregnancy in the workplace, please comment on our blog, or contact one of our experienced employment law attorney’s. Join us next week for information on disabilities in the workplace and your rights.