Becoming a Parent: Legal Rights in the Workplace
If you work for a company that uses hazardous chemicals or engages in
above-average physical activity, be aware of the Supreme Court case International Union (UAW) vs. Johnson Controls. In 1991, it was ruled that fetal risk decisions are the sole responsibility of the prospective parent, not her employer. If you’re in a position where your work environment may affect your unborn child’s health, consult your physician. A few issues you may wish to discuss with your healthcare provider are:
- exposure to hazardous chemicals,
gases, or toxins
- loud noises
- excessive physical activity
- cigarette smoke
- poor air quality
Also, keep in mind that you can work right up until you begin labor if you choose, barring any medical complications.
State and local laws may vary drastically on the previously mentioned issues. Some states may have more protective laws than those already discussed but may not take away any right you’re entitled to under federal laws. Leave time, from state to state, can range from six to 16 weeks.
- Before announcing your pregnancy/adoption, consult your employee handbook and/or human resource department for applicable policies. (The HR department should keep all inquiries confidential.) Smaller companies may not have a policy in writing or even have a policy. If either is the case, you may have to negotiate for leave, then have it put in writing.
- Find out how your employer has handled other pregnancies. It may help prepare you for the response you may receive.
- Inquire about father’s rights in relation to his company’s leave time policy. More and more companies are establishing this special benefit, although taking advantage of it isn’t often encouraged.
- If you feel your rights may be or are being violated, keep detailed documentation/records that you may need later to file a claim.
- Remember that a local attorney who specializes in such cases is your best resource relating to these issues.
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