Being pregnant is an exciting time for many North Carolina women, but it also often comes with concerns. For example, pregnant women who work may be concerned about taking time off to have their baby and being able to return to their jobs after the baby is born. While there are no set maternity leave laws in North Carolina, certain employers must allow employees to take time off under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
At Phil Gibbons Law, we fight for the employment rights of pregnant women. If your employer does not allow you to take the maternity leave you are entitled to, or you have faced other discrimination, talk to our team about filing a legal claim for damages. Give us a call today: 704-612-0038.
How much time do I get for maternity leave?
The FMLA requires all public agencies, all schools, and companies that employ more than 50 employees within 75 miles to allow eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period for the following reasons:
- Serious illness
- Caring for a spouse, child, or parent with serious medical condition
- Adopting or fostering a child
- Birth and care of a newborn child
To be eligible for FMLA leave, an employee must have worked for her employer for a minimum of 1,250 hours over the past 12 months. Employees must also notify their employer that they will taking maternity leave at least 30 days in advance.
The employer must keep the employee’s job open until she returns from FMLA leave.
Is there any reason my employer would be able to give up my job?
Key employees, the highest paid (top 10 percent) of all employees within 75 miles of the worksite, are entitled to FMLA leave; however, employers can deny job reinstatement to these employees in certain situations. To deny job restoration, the employer must prove the restoration would cause a “substantial and grievous economic injury” to the company.
If your employer denied your job reinstatement and you are not a key employee, give Phil Gibbons a call.
Pregnant Women Also Have Rights Under the PDA
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also provides pregnant women with additional protections in the workplace. The PDA protects pregnant employees from employment discrimination based on childbirth, pregnancy, or related medical conditions.
Generally, workplace pregnancy discrimination occurs when an employer treats an employee differently because she is pregnant. Pregnant employees are entitled to continue working as long as they can perform their jobs. If an employee is temporarily unable to do her work due to her pregnancy, the employer must treat her like it would treat other temporarily disabled employees.
How might my employer violate my rights?
Pregnancy discrimination or FMLA violations in the workplace can occur in many ways such as:
- Employer refuses to hire or fires someone because she is pregnant.
- Employer requires pregnant employees to submit doctor’s statements to prove that they cannot work, but does not require the same of those applying for sick or disability leave.
- FMLA employer refuses to allow an eligible employee to take maternity leave or forces her to take fewer weeks than she is entitled to.
- Employee takes leave due to pregnancy-related condition and recovers, but employer insists that she stay on leave until the baby is born.
- Employer refuses to allow employee to come back to work after her approved maternity leave.
- Employer misclassifies employee as key employee or wrongly claims that job reinstatement would cause substantial economic injury to the company.
- Employer fails to inform employee of her rights to FMLA leave.
- Employer counts FMLA-approved absences against the employee and disciplines the employee due to “excessive absences.”
- Employer treats pregnancy-related leave differently than sick or disability leave (e.g., employer holds jobs for pregnancy-related absences for less time than jobs for other absences).
- Employer forces employee to take a lower-level position or less pay and fewer benefits upon return from maternity leave.
If you find yourself in any of the above situations, you may be entitled to compensation from your employer.
Filing a Claim Against Your Employer
Many North Carolina employers must, under federal law, allow eligible pregnant employees to take time away from work to care for themselves and their babies once they are born.
Under Section 105 of the FMLA and 29 CFR § 825.220 of the FMLA regulations, employers cannot “interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of, or the attempt to exercise, any FMLA right.” The law also prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee who exercises her rights under the FMLA.
If your employer violated the FMLA and you suffered because of this violation, you may file a claim against it. Filing an employment law claim requires you to prove that your employer misinterpreted the requirements of the FMLA or intentionally refused to comply with them. You may file your claim based on retaliation or interference.
If your employer disciplined you for taking maternity leave under the FMLA, you may file a claim for retaliation. You will need to prove that:
- You are entitled to maternity leave under the FMLA.
- FMLA covers your employer.
- You suffered an adverse employment action (e.g., your employer fired or demoted you).
- You taking leave was what caused your employer to take the adverse action.
If your employer refused to approve your maternity leave or discouraged you from taking leave, you may file a claim for interference. An interference claim requires you to prove that:
- You were eligible for maternity leave under the FMLA.
- FMLA covers your employer.
- You provided your employer with enough notice of your leave.
- Your employer denied your leave.
If you successfully prove that your employer retaliated against you for exercising your FMLA rights or interfered with exercising your FMLA rights, you may recover damages. Damages can include job reinstatement, back pay, and liquidated damages (unless your employer proves it acted in good faith).
Recover Compensation if Your Employment Rights Were Violated
Pregnant women and new mothers have a million things on their plates. The last thing they should have to worry about is whether their jobs will still be available when they return from maternity leave. Federal law allows soon-to-be moms to take a few months off to give birth, recover from giving birth, and care for their newborns.
If your employer is violating or interfering with your rights by preventing you from taking the maternity leave you are entitled to, or refusing to keep your job open for you, contact Phil Gibbons Law.
Our qualified pregnancy discrimination attorneys understand how important it is for pregnant women to take time for themselves and their families before going back to work. We will determine if you are eligible for maternity leave and will help you file suit if your employer violated your rights.
Give us a call today: 704-612-0038.