Employer Forces Pregnant Woman To Return From Maternity Leave Prior To Child’s Birth

For an expectant mother, pregnancy should be a time when physical and emotional stressors are limited to ensure for the health and wellbeing of both mother and unborn child. Many expecting mothers experience complications during their pregnancies that may warrant a doctor to order restrictions on certain activities such as lifting or standing. In some cases, a woman’s attempts to follow her doctor’s orders result in her experiencing job discrimination and even wrongful termination.

One 31-year-old California woman recently relayed her story of how her retail employer responded when informed of the expectant mother’s condition. Per her doctor’s orders, the woman was advised not to lift more than 15 pounds or ascend a ladder to restock merchandise. Subsequently, the woman’s employer officially awarded her eight weeks of light work duties.

At the end of the eight weeks, the woman was only approximately three to four months pregnant. However, when she asked for an extension of the previously awarded “light duty”, she was placed on unpaid maternity leave. Next month the woman’s maternity leave will run out and she must return to her job. The problem is that the woman hasn’t even had her baby yet and, in fact, is now in her third trimester.

The woman recently filed a lawsuit against the retailer for violating a California employment law that requires employers to make appropriate accommodations for pregnant employees. Unfortunately, the 31-year-old mother’s situation is not uncommon as cases of employment discrimination against expectant mothers can be found across the country.

Today, instead of enjoying her final trimester and preparing for the impending birth of her child, the woman spends her days worrying about how she and her family will survive on one income.

Pregnant women who are subject to workplace discrimination would be wise to discuss their case with an attorney. California law specifically prohibits employers from discriminating against pregnant workers and requires employers to appropriately accommodate a woman during her pregnancy.

Source: The Los Angeles Times, “Lawsuit: Forced on maternity leave, forced to return before baby is due,” Robin Abcarian, April 16, 2014http

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