Workplace protections for new mothers

| Jun 1, 2021 | Employment law

Going back to work after having a baby may present various challenges for new mothers. While a joyous time for most, some employers may view pregnancies or childbirth as inconvenient. To avoid the potential discrimination that may come from such views, state and federal laws provide protections for new moms returning to the workforce. 

Understanding their rights may help new mothers protect themselves and their abilities to work and care for their children. 

Maternity leave

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, federal laws provide parental leave for new parents, including those who foster or adopt. The Family and Medical Leave Act allows eligible parents to take up to 12 weeks of leave to care for a new child. Employers do not have to offer to pay for such leaves unless employees choose to use accrued paid-time-off. 

Temporary disability

Upon returning to work, medical conditions related to giving birth may affect some new mothers’ ability to perform their job duties. In such cases, their employers must treat them as any other temporarily disabled workers. This may include providing alternative or light-duty assignments, as well as allowing disability or unpaid leave if they also offer those options to employees dealing with other types of temporary disabilities. 

Break time for nursing

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employers must allow nursing mothers time and space to express milk for their children. Under federal laws, new moms may take reasonable breaks each time they must express milk for up to one year after the births of their children. Except when using compensated break times provided to all workers by employers, new mothers’ employers do not have to pay them for break times used to express milk.