Know what to expect from your employer when you’re expecting a child.
The Minnesota Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination by employers against an employee due to pregnancy and childbirth. Federally, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits similar discrimination by employers. But there are several other issues that may arise before and after the birth or adoption of a child, and it is important for soon-to-be parents to know their employment rights.
Accommodations During Pregnancy
Pregnancy is considered a temporary medical disability, which means you should be treated the same as any other employee with a medical condition. Both federal and state law require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for health conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth. Under Minnesota law, no employer can deny a pregnant employee’s request for more frequent restroom, water, and food breaks, seating, and limits on lifting. Additionally, an employer must engage in an interactive process if an employee requests additional accommodations such as temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position.
Rights to Maternity/Parental Leave
Although employers are not required to provide employers with paid maternity or parental leave, you may be entitled to unpaid leave following the birth or adoption of your child. The Family and Medical Leave Act, requires employers to allow employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave from your job to care for a newborn baby, a newly adopted child, or a foster child. To be an eligible employment for leave under the FMLA, your employer must have 50 or more employees and you must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months, and worked at least 1,250 hours.
Under Minnesota law, employees are entitled 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child, if the employer has 21 or more employees, and the employee has worked for the company for at least 12 months at least half time before the leave.
Returning to Work
A new parent’s legal protections do not end when she or he returns to work. Upon returning from a protected parental leave, an employee is entitled to return to the same or a comparable position and is entitled to the same benefits and seniority that she or he had prior to taking leave. Any reduction in hours, demotion, or change in duties after a protected leave could be considered to be illegal retaliation by an employer.
Additionally, under the Women’s Economic Security Act in Minnesota law, a nursing mother that returns to work must be provided reasonable time to express milk. Employers must also provide that nursing mother with a private area, shielded from view, with access to an electrical outlet. Bathrooms do not fulfill an employer’s obligation under this law. WESA also allow all employees to use their own sick time to care for a child, and prohibits employers from retaliating against them for doing so.
At Schaefer Halleen, LLC, we have extensive experience successfully advocating on behalf of people in discriminatory situations.