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Can You Be Terminated While on Pregnancy-Related Medical Leave?

Pregnancy and the birth of a child should be a joyous time in a woman’s life. The last thing an expectant or new mother should have to worry about is losing her job because of the pregnancy. Unfortunately, though, it is far from uncommon—even in the 21st century—for a woman to find out she has been terminated while on pregnancy-related medical leave. If you were terminated while on leave related to a pregnancy or the birth of a child in Pennsylvania, you may have the basis for legal action based on either state or federal employment laws. Only an experienced Pennsylvania employment law attorney can evaluate the facts and circumstances of your termination and offer you specific advice, however, a basic understanding of relevant employment laws may be helpful in the meantime.

An employee who is pregnant in Pennsylvania is potentially protected in the workplace by both state and federal law. At the state level, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, or PHRA, prohibits discrimination on the basis of a number of traits or characteristics, including sex. As applied, the prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sex includes treating a worker who is pregnant unfavorably because of the pregnancy. In general, an employer is required to treat a pregnant employee the same as an employee with any other temporary disability would be treated. Typically, this means that your employer’s policies with regard to medical leave, job reinstatement, and other health-related benefits that apply to employees with a temporary disability must also apply to you if you are pregnant. Take note, however, that the PHRA does not apply to private employers with less than four employees.

At the federal level, the Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, may also protect your job while you are on pregnancy-related medical leave. The FMLA allows an eligible employee to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, but job protected, leave for specified family and medical reasons if the employee’s employer is a covered employer. Though the FMLA has numerous caveats and exceptions, a covered employer in general is one who has at least 50 employees. However, to be considered an eligible employee, you must work at a worksite where there are at least 50 employees within a 75 mile radius. In addition, you must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months and worked at least 1,250 hours within the preceding 12 months. If you are covered by the FMLA, your job must be protected while you are out on FMLA leave.

Along with the FMLA, the federal “Pregnancy Discrimination Act” specifically makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee “on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.”

If you believe you have been discriminated against in the workplace by being terminated while on pregnancy-related medical leave, get in touch with an experienced employment law attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options. Contact the Conshohocken employment law attorneys at Curley & Rothman, LLC by calling 610-834-8819