The US lags behind other developed nations in its laws that protect expecting parents.
In fact, where you live could have a substantial impact on your legal rights at work, says Tom Spiggle, founder of The Spiggle Law Firm, a family and pregnancy discrimination practice.
“Certainly all states are covered by federal law, which includes the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, but even this law only covers employers that have 15 or more employees—and courts are split on what rights this act provides,” Spiggle says. “Courts have held that employers don’t have to make minor accommodations at work—like allowing women to carry a water bottle to stay hydrated—to allow pregnant women to keep working.”
Fortunately, adds Spiggle, author of the upcoming “You’re Pregnant? You’re Fired: Protecting Mothers, Fathers, and Other Caregivers in the Workplace” (www.yourepregnantyourefired.com) “a lot of states and cities are stepping up to fill the gap.”
Here is Spiggle’s listing of the top 5 cities with the best policies and laws for working women who are pregnant:
1. New York City, N.Y.
In 2013, New York City passed amendments to its Human Rights Law that require employers with four or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant women to allow them to continue to work through their pregnancy. This protection is broader than both the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the New York State Human Rights Law. But here’s the kicker that gets NYC first-place billing: it requires employers with five or more employees to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave to care for themselves or certain family members.
So, if you are pregnant and your doctor tells you to avoid lifting heavy objects, if you live in NYC, your employer will have to accommodate that restriction. If you’ve also got a toddler at home who comes down with the flu and can’t go to daycare, you can also get some paid leave to stay home for a few days. If you lived in a state like Virginia, your employer could fire you for refusing to come to work under those same circumstances.
2. San Francisco, Calif.
Pregnant women in California are protected from discrimination by the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act. In addition, the Act requires that employers must provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees when supported by a health care provider. On top of that, a pregnant woman in San Francisco can get up to nine days of paid sick leave and cannot be discriminated against for taking leave.
With one of the oldest paid-sick-day laws in the nation (passed in 2006), San Francisco has demonstrated that providing for paid sick leave does not negatively affect the economy.
3. Newark, N.J.
In 2014, New Jersey amended its Law Against Discrimination to specifically provide protections for pregnant women who need an accommodation to continue to work. In passing this law, the New Jersey legislature found that pregnant women are at particular risk of suffering from discrimination. The law notes that the following constitute reasonable accommodations: bathroom breaks; breaks for increased water intake; periodic rest; assistance with manual labor; job restructuring or modified work schedules; and temporary transfers to less strenuous or hazardous work. It gets even better if you live in Newark. This year the city passed a law providing that employees in a company with 10 or more employees can receive up to five days of paid sick leave. Employees at companies with fewer than 10 employees can receive up to three days of paid leave.
4. Honolulu, Hawaii
Hawaii provides broad workplace protectionsto pregnant women, including the right to workplace accommodations, it protects even part-time employees. Plus, you get to live in Hawaii.
5. Philadelphia, Pa.
As of 2014, a pregnant woman in Philadelphiais entitled to receive a reasonable accommodation at work to allow her to continue working. This applies to any employer that employs at least one employee who is not a relative.
“There are several other states and localities worth noting that have that have done, or have legislation pending, to protect pregnant employees,” added Spiggle. “They include Maryland, Alaska, Connecticut, Texas, West Virginia, Louisiana and Illinois.”
If you’re not living in one of these states, move there soon or read up on your protections in your city and good luck to ya!