‘Mistake-Proof’ Your Company’s Pregnancy Policy, Firms Advised

by WOHe

‘Mistake-Proof’ Your Company’s Pregnancy Policy, Firms
Advised

One of the touchiest areas any employer in the
kitchen/bath industry must deal with is that of pregnancy-related
issues.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) was enacted
in 1978 and specifically prohibits employment discrimination based
on an employee’s pregnancy. The PDA requires equal treatment of
women “affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical
conditions” in all aspects of employment, including hiring,
promotion, employment termination, and the receipt of fringe
benefits. The PDA applies to employers with 15 or more
employees.

In addition, employers may be required to provide
12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period for eligible
employees under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA
applies to employers with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile
radius. The provisions of the FMLA do not bind employers with less
than the requisite number of employees.
It’s still important to know what the law states, even if you’re
not liable.

While laws may vary from state to state, and
interpretations of the law can vary from court district to court
district, what follows are some general guidelines that can
help.

  • When hiring, avoid all mention of pregnancy-related
    issues. Do not ask applicants about how many children they have,
    whether or not they plan to have children, or how they will care
    for their children. Do not make assumptions about the applicant’s
    physical ability to do a job if she is pregnant.
     

  • The PDA prohibits an employer from terminating an
    employee because of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical
    conditions. However, the law does not prohibit an employer from
    making termination decisions based on legitimate, well-documented,
    job-related reasons. As with all employees, a regular performance
    evaluation should be conducted, and the record kept in writing. The
    evaluation should not involve pregnancy-related issues. Pregnancy
    or the possibility of pregnancy should not even be referred
    to.
     

  • You may want to require all employees to submit a
    doctor’s evaluations in writing before granting any medical leave
    or paying sick benefits, so as not to single out pregnant
    employees. If one of your employees is temporarily unable to
    perform her job due to pregnancy, you must treat her the same as
    any other temporarily disabled employee in terms of assigning her
    other duties or putting her on leave.
     

  • A pregnant employee must be allowed to work as long
    as she is able to perform her job under the law. If she takes a
    temporary leave early in her pregnancy, you cannot require her to
    stay on leave until she gives birth. Nor can you specify how much
    time she takes off after giving birth.
     

  • Your health insurance plan must cover
    pregnancy-related expenses on the same basis as any other illness.
    Health insurance coverage for abortion-related issues is not
    required, unless the abortion is required to save the life of the
    mother. You must provide the same level of health benefits for
    spouses of male employees as you do for the spouses of female
    employees.
     

  • Pregnancy-related benefits cannot be limited to
    married employees.
     

  • You cannot subtract a maternity leave from an
    employee’s time of service when figuring vacation eligibility, pay
    increases or the like

For specific information, kitchen and bath company owners are
advised to contact an attorney. Figuring your policy for these
issues ahead of time, putting that policy in writing, and making
sure your employees are aware of it can help head off problems down
the road.

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