Working can pose a challenge to pregnant women, who are already trying to get used to their condition. Unemployed pregnant women might find it challenging to find a job, while those who are working might feel newfound discrimination toward them for their employer. Pregnant women are protected by the law during all aspects of the employment process, from the job hunt until the time they are ready to have the baby and come back to work.
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Pregnant women are sometimes under the misconception that they will not find employment because of their condition. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, pregnant women are protected from job discrimination through the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (see References).
Under federal law, an employer cannot refuse to interview a woman because she is pregnant. Unfortunately, there are cases where women do not obtain interviews because they are pregnant. If a woman is in the early stages of pregnancy, she does not have to disclose her pregnancy to a prospective employer. Once interviewed, an employer can refuse to hire a pregnant woman if she cannot physically meet the job requirements or if another person was better qualified for the job. On the other hand, if a pregnant woman meets the requirements, and is the most qualified over other candidates, then it is the employer's legal and ethical responsibility to hire her.
A woman cannot be fired because she might not be able to perform parts of her job because of her pregnancy. For example, an employee who could lift heavy boxes or climb ladders before her pregnancy cannot be let go because her new physical condition prevents her from doing otherwise. However, the employer can legally require a doctor's note that explains such physical limitations for a particular job.
Employers that provide health insurance for their employees are required to provide plans that cover pregnancy expenses. This also applies to the wives of male employees. In addition, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act states that such benefits must be available to all employees and not exclusively to those who are married.
Most large companies will require that a pregnant woman retrieve a doctor's note that states when she plans to go on maternity leave. An employer cannot set a date for a pregnant employee to leave, or set a date for when she is required to come back. The only exception is that, under the Federal Medical Leave Act, an employer must leave the mother's position for her for 12 weeks. If the mother does not come back before the 12 weeks expire, then the employer can legally fill the position.
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