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Employment laws protecting pregnant workers in Michigan

Pregnant employees, including Troy job applicants, are among the classes of workers protected by anti-discrimination laws. Michigan employers who discriminate against potential employees or workers due to pregnancy, pregnancy-related health conditions or childbirth violate state and federal sex discrimination laws.

Pregnancy employment discrimination protections are available under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act and Family Leave and Medical Leave Act. Michigan labor laws affecting pregnant workers fall under the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.

Pregnancy is considered a temporary disability equivalent to other forms of short-term disability. Along with disability leave under the federal Family Leave Act, a pregnant worker is permitted to take 12 weeks of leave to care for a newborn, provided the worker has been employed at least one year. The Fair Labor Standards Act also gives mothers the right to express breast milk at work.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act instructs employers to treat pregnant employees as they do other workers with non-job-related, temporary disabilities. That rule applies to hiring, firing benefits, leave and job transfer practices. Employers also may not force a female worker to begin or end maternity leave on predetermined dates.

Pregnant employees who work in hazardous environments must be informed about any workplace dangers, like chemicals, that could affect them. Employers are forbidden to fire or transfer workers due to pregnancy. The U.S. Supreme Court decided in 1991 parents or lawmakers, not employers, should decide whether a job environment is dangerous to a fetus.

Workers may not realize some companies are not large enough to be affected by some of these pregnancy discrimination laws. There are a lot of rules and exceptions to rules, along with internal company policies, that may affect a claim of sex discrimination.

If you suspect but aren't certain whether an employer is discriminating against you due to pregnancy, you may want to contact the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, an employment attorney or both.

Source: Michigan Department of Civil Rights, "Pregnancy in the Workplace," accessed June 19, 2015

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