Pregnant women have rights: 8 things mamas-to-be should know about the workplace

It’s illegal to get fired for getting pregnant. 

Pregnant women have rights: 8 things mamas-to-be should know about the workplace

There are more than 4 million pregnant women in the United States every year, and most of them work.

Fifty-six percent of women work full-time and 10% work part-time during pregnancy, with 82% working until they are within one month of their due dates.

Unless you’re an employment lawyer or you’ve had a problem in your workplace, you probably haven’t given much thought to your rights at work.

You should.

Learning about workplace legal protections before you have a problem is the best way to ensure you can continue to work safely throughout your pregnancy, take the time off you need, and manage your family responsibilities when you return to work.

As a lawyer and advocate for pregnant women, I think a lot about how to empower working mothers.


Here are my 8 tips for pregnant women in the workplace.

1. Know your rights.

Look at your employee manual and learn about your rights. Don’t count on your boss or anyone in HR to know everything. Some of the laws are complicated and often turn on specific details about your individual situation.

Even well-intentioned human resources professionals don’t always know and understand the applicable laws, and no one is going to be as informed as you are about your particular situation.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website is a good place to start. And the nonprofit organization A Better Balance maintains a great state-by-state guide for pregnant workers.

2. Tell your boss you’re pregnant + put it in writing.

No, you don’t have to announce your pregnancy by certified mail, but once you do tell your boss the exciting news, it’s a good idea to follow up with an email. If you’re suddenly being treated differently at work, it’s important to be able to show that your employer knew you were pregnant.

If you’re having issues early in your pregnancy, you may have to tell your boss before you’re even ready to tell your mother-in-law. For example, if severe morning sickness makes it difficult for you to get to work on time, you may be protected under a number of laws and may be entitled to time off, but you have to notify your employer.

3. Think about leave early + often.

Review your employer’s policies about leave, and talk with your supervisor or HR contact well before you plan to be out—and at least 30 days before your due date. Find out if you qualify for FMLA leave, and be sure to check whether your state has a leave law that may apply to you.

Your partner should talk with his or her employer about leave, too. The FMLA and many company policies provide time to recover from childbirth as well as time to bond with a new baby, which applies to partners as well.

Oh, and this leave provided by federal law is UNPAID. If you think it is ridiculous that the U.S. shares this dubious distinction with only Papua New Guinea and Oman, get involved in efforts to pass paid leave laws so working parents can take care of their health and family needs without jeopardizing their economic security.

4. If you need accommodations, talk to your medical provider + then your boss.

If you get a doctor’s note saying “Pregnant. Light duty,” this is probably not going to help you, and may actually cause you problems. Help your doctor by describing the specific things you are having difficulty doing.

Do your homework about what kinds of accommodations would make it possible for you to continue to work safely. The note from your doctor should be specific about what types of accommodations would work for you.

When you speak with your boss about what you need, be prepared to offer options and have a constructive dialogue to come up with a solution. Remind your boss that this is temporary!

In general, women who have pregnancy complications or who work in jobs where other workers with limitations are accommodated are entitled to accommodations, but the law is complicated.

In some states, it’s simple: Employers are required to provide accommodations. If you think all pregnant workers should have these kinds of protections, get involved in local and national campaigns to protect all pregnant workers!

5. Notice how others are treated.

In the legal sense, discrimination means that you are being treated worse than coworkers who are otherwise like you, except not pregnant. If you sense that you are being discriminated against, pay attention to and make note of the way non-pregnant employees are being treated.

Don’t be paranoid, but don’t be dismissive, either. Lots of little incidents that don’t quite feel right can amount to a pattern.

6. If you think you’re being treated unfairly, report it. In writing.

You don’t have to say, “I think you’re violating the Pregnancy Discrimination Act,” but you do have to make it clear that you are being treated worse in some way because of your pregnancy.

7. Be a pumping pioneer.

Federal law requires that hourly employees be provided with time to pump as well as a private, sanitary place (NOT a bathroom) in which to do it. Some state laws offer additional protections. Just because, according to your supervisor, pumping in the broom closet along with the cleaning chemicals was “fine” for all the pumping employees who went before you, it doesn’t have to be “fine” for you.

You can stand up for yourself and politely point out to your boss why a broom closet may not be appropriate, and suggest some better spaces. Chances are you will end up with a better situation and pave the way for pumping moms who follow you.

8. Get help.

If things are getting bad, consult a lawyer. Don’t wait until you get fired or are forced to quit. If you can’t afford to pay for legal help, organizations such as A Better Balance and the Center for WorkLife Law have hotlines to provide pro se legal assistance.

If you work in the Washington, D.C., area, First Shift Justice Project offers individual consultations.

As an advocate + a mom, my hope is that we are moving toward a time when all pregnant women will be treated fairly in the workplace.

Right now, the reality is that it’s important for mamas to know their rights, and to be willing to stand up for them. This is an excellent first step in a lifetime of advocating and setting an example for your little one.

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They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


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