Maternity Leave Act and Pregnancy Discrimination

Providing Protection to Pregnant Mothers

Tennessee provides protection to working expectant mothers under two different laws, the Tennessee Maternity Leave Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Under the Tennessee Maternity Leave Act, certain female employees in Tennessee are granted 4 months of leave for the pregnancy, childbirth, and care of the newborn.

Federal law also applies to Tennessee expectant mothers with FMLA. Under FMLA, employees with over a year of employment in a business may be granted 12 weeks of unpaid time off for the birth or adoption of a child. Tennessee businesses with 50 or more employees must by law grant these 12 weeks of maternity of leave. In addition, Tennessee employers may not terminate an employee for taking protected leave or allow maternity leave to negatively affect an area of employment. Both the Tennessee Maternity Leave Act and the FMLA provide that health insurance coverage from a Tennessee employer will continue during maternity leave although the employee must pay the premiums. These laws help to protect employees from adverse employment actions as a result of their maternity leave. If you have suffered from pregnancy discrimination, we encourage you to talk with our Tennessee employment lawyers.

Employee Requirements under FMLA

Although the FMLA requires that an employer grant leave during an employee’s pregnancy, the employee similarly must comply with certain requirements to be eligible under FMLA. Employees typically must notify their employer at least 30 days before taking maternity leave in Tennessee. This requirement applies to both normal birth conditions as well as adoptions. However, FMLA provides exceptions for emergency cases requiring long-term medical leave. In addition, employees taking maternity leave must do so in good faith. Employees may not falsify their medical records for leave or take FMLA leave to look for another job.

Employer Requirements under FMLA

The FMLA has a number of requirements that employers must follow. The FMLA provides that 12 weeks of maternity leave are permitted for every year of employment. An employer is not allowed to limit the number of maternity leaves taken during an employee’s career. Also, an employer may not allow maternity leave to affect employment decisions such as bonuses or promotions. Upon returning to work after maternity leave, an employer must return the employee to the same position or an equivalent one. In addition, the employee must still qualify for any of the same bonuses that she qualified for before the leave. Similarly, the time spent during maternity leave under FMLA does not count towards hours worked by the employee.

Employers’ Retaliation or Pregnancy Discrimination

As with any other type of employment discrimination, an employer may not allow an employee’s maternity leave to negatively impact employment decisions as seen through discrimination or retaliation. Some of those negative effects can include passing over the employee for a promotion, denying medical benefits, or even terminating the employee for requesting maternity leave.

Employers are prohibited from attempting to discourage an employee from taking maternity leave by suggesting or implying that she may be replaced or the position may close during her absence. Similarly, employers are prohibited from taking negative action against an employee for asserting her protected rights.

If you or a loved one has suffered as a result of pregnancy discrimination or maternity leave, contact our experienced Tennessee employment lawyers at The Higgins Firm. We will stand up for your rights.