Pregnancy Discrimination Claims
What is pregnancy discrimination and does the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA) cover it?
Pregnancy discrimination occurs when you suffer some form of adverse employment action, (i.e. discharge, demotion, failure to promote, or loss of benefits) as a result of your pregnancy. The MHRA covers discrimination based on gender. Because pregnancy is a circumstance that specifically affects women, any discrimination because of pregnancy can be classified as a form of gender discrimination.
Pregnancy is also classified as a temporary disability under Missouri law. In Missouri, if you are terminated as a temporarily disabled employee without being provided a sufficient leave of absence, then this termination violates the MHRA because it has a disparate impact on women. Only if the business demonstrates that its actions were justified as a business necessity may you legally be discharged for failing to perform your duties.
I think I am being impacted or treated differently because of my pregnancy. How do I prove it?
To prove you have been discriminated against because of your pregnancy you must show that:
I just found out that I'm pregnant, should I tell my employer?
Revealing any personal information is a sensitive decision and ultimately is up to you. There is no legal requirement for you to tell your employer you are pregnant. However, if you tell your employer it may be able to better accommodate your needs while you are employed during your pregnancy.
Can my employer fire me because I may become pregnant?
No. Firing someone based solely on a condition related to a person's gender or disability is discriminatory and unlawful.
Can I ask my employer to make accommodations for me on account of my pregnancy?
Yes. If your employer would make accommodations for employees with other temporary disabilities, then it must make the same accommodations for you. Read the employer's handbook or ask about your workplace policies regarding the treatment of employees with disabilities to confirm your coverage as a pregnant woman.
How do I prove that I need a special accommodation?
In Missouri, all you need is a note from your doctor detailing your condition and the accommodation you require. If your accommodation amounts to failure to perform your job duties then the employer may decide he or she must find a replacement as a business necessity. If your accommodation does not fundamentally affect your ability to adequately perform a task at work a doctor's note will suffice.
For what amount of time can I take leave because of pregnancy?
Missouri law is silent on the issue of the amount of time you may take for leave due to pregnancy. Check your employer's policies regarding pregnancy leave or disability leave. If you work at a location where your employer employs fifty (50) or more people within seventy-five (75) miles of your workplace you qualify for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Under the FMLA you may take up to twelve (12) weeks of family leave within a twelve (12) month period in which you worked at least one thousand two-hundred fifty (1250) hours in the previous twelve (12) months.
What happens to my job while I am on pregnancy leave?
Under the FMLA you may not be fired for exercising your rights under federal law. As a result you may not suffer an adverse employment action for exercising your right for medical leave under the FMLA. If you work at a smaller company where fewer than fifty (50) employees work, you should check your employer's policies. In Missouri, if your employer keeps positions open for other temporary medical disabilities, they must keep your position open for you.
Can my employer deny me pregnancy leave?
If you have worked at least one thousand two-hundred fifty (1250) hours over the previous twelve (12) month period of employment at your work, and your employer employs fifty (50) or more employees within seventy-five (75) miles of your location then you qualify for the FMLA and your employer may not deny you pregnancy leave. If you or your place of employment do not qualify for the FMLA then check your employer's policies regarding pregnancy or disability leave. Under Missouri law, if your employer does not deny disability leave they may not deny pregnancy leave.
I've been missing a lot of work due to prenatal check-ups or pregnancy-related complications; can my employer fire me for this?
If your employer provides leave for physical therapy due to a disability or regular medical check-ups as an incident to a permanent or temporary disability, then your employer must provide you with the same rights without firing you. Check your employer's policies on pregnancy or disability leave. Under federal law, any pregnancy related leave will count towards your twelve (12) week allotment of leave pursuant to the FMLA.
Is my employer required to pay me while I am on pregnancy leave?
No. Under the FMLA, if you apply vacation or personal days that are considered paid leave to your twelve (12) week leave allotment, then you may be paid for your absence. However, you must notify your employer first. Under Missouri law, an employer is not required to pay you for your leave unless you take leave from your paid vacation or personal days. However, if your employer offers paid leave for medical visits for people with disabilities, then they must provide you paid leave for your pregnancy. Check your employer's policies.
I'm pregnant but not showing yet and I have an upcoming interview; do I need to disclose the fact that I'm pregnant?
Revealing your pregnancy is not required under any state or federal law. However, if you think you will require reasonable accommodations you may want to tell your prospective employer. Under the MHRA, an employer may not refuse to hire you because of a temporary or permanent disability unless it is a business necessity, which the employer would have to prove.
Can an employer refuse to hire me because I may become pregnant?
No. Refusing to hire someone based solely on a condition related to a person's gender or disability is discriminatory and is prohibited under Missouri law.
Can my employer prevent me from working while I'm pregnant or require me to take a certain amount of leave?
No. You may work as long as you like so long as you can adequately perform your job function. If your inability to work effectively puts an undue burden on your employer's business that a reasonable accommodation cannot solve, the employer may have a legitimate reason for firing you.
Can my employer keep me from working in certain areas or doing certain tasks because of health and safety concerns?
Your employer must allow you to perform your duties until you receive a doctor's note telling you that you must quit or alter the nature of your work as it relates to your health.
Can my employer move me to another position while I am pregnant so as not to offend clients or customers?
Unless your employer can show that accommodating for your pregnancy puts an undue burden on his business, treating you differently than any other employee is not permissible under Missouri law, including shielding you from clients or customers.
Does my employer's health insurance have to cover the medical costs of my pregnancy?
No. If your employer's health insurance plan does not include maternity benefits, then you are not entitled to coverage. Check your employer's health insurance plan for coverage details.
I just returned from maternity leave and need to take extra breaks in order to pump milk, but my supervisor won't allow me to take more than 2 breaks a day. Can I file a claim?
If your employer would provide for breaks to attend to a disability, then your employer must provide you with similar breaks as well. However, there is no law in Missouri regulating breastfeeding or similar actions at the workplace. Consequently, there is no express protection for taking breaks to pump milk.
Can my employer treat me differently because I am unmarried and pregnant?
No. Any act of discrimination based on sex or disability is prohibited under the MHRA. If your employer treats an unmarried woman differently than an unmarried man, you might have a claim of discrimination under the disparate treatment doctrine of law.
I was pregnant, but had a miscarriage or an abortion, and need time off to recover. Am I covered by the law?
Under the federal law, FMLA, you are entitled to leave due to pregnancy complications or a serious health condition. If your employer has a short-term disability leave program, they must provide you with pregnancy-disability leave as well. Check your employer's policies to be sure.
My employer's medical plan covers most health conditions, but excludes abortion and contraceptive devices and medication. Is this legal?
Under Missouri law your medical plan is not required to pay for abortions unless the abortion is spontaneous in order to save the life of the mother. Only by purchasing an additional coverage at an extra cost can you have your health insurer cover abortions. It is also legal for you employer's medical plan to exclude coverage for contraceptives, but you may purchase coverage for contraceptives.
What could my employer do to deny my allegations, and how do I respond to their denials?
If you have made an initial showing that your employer has treated you adversely because of your pregnancy, the burden then shifts to your employer to present a lawful reason for its alleged adverse employment action. All your employer has to do is state a lawful reason for its actions. They do not have to persuade the court that this reason was legitimate. The burden of persuasion is ultimately on you to show that the employer's reasons were pretext, meaning they were not legitimate and that the actual reason was intentional discrimination based on your pregnancy.
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