What Maternity Leav​e Looks Like in 2019

03.29.19Cassi Cummings

Women’s History Month is a celebration of women’s contributions to history, culture and society. The United States has observed it annually throughout the month of March since 1987.  

The Equal Rights Amendment was introduced in Congress three years after women won the right to vote in 1920, but went nowhere for over 50 years until it was passed in 1972, only to fail ratification.

The proposed Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states that “Equality of Rights under the Law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex” is still, even today, being debated some 95 years later.

Exactly 80% of Americans don’t know that women are not guaranteed equal rights in the U.S. Constitution even after years of fighting.  

Why has the ERA failed to become law and been so controversial?  

What rights and protections have come into law since the fight for equal rights was introduced nearly a century ago?

In support of women and equal rights for all, a special Presidential Proclamation is issued every year which honors the extraordinary achievements of American women and their important contributions to our country, including their significant role in our evolving workforce.  

The number women in the U.S. workforce has nearly doubled, from 34% in 1950 to almost 57% in 2016.  Out of those women, one in four mothers return to work only 10 days after giving birth and just over one-third of American mothers don’t return to work after having a baby.  

Not long ago pregnant women had no protection on the job. Fortunately, all that has changed, laws passed and we’ve progressed. There are a number of federal and state laws that will protect women during their pregnancy and employers are required to support and ensure their workforce understand their right to take leave in the event of pregnancy.  

Understandably, the laws and protections can be confusing and difficult to decipher so let’s dive into a little history of where the pregnancy protections began.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 was an amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the first stepping stone of federal legislation that officially states you cannot be fired for being pregnant. In addition, It has been twenty-five years since the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was founded, which will protect an employee’s job for up to 12 weeks after childbirth or adoption.  

To help you better understand your role in managing your employee’s rights, let’s go into greater detail to clearly define these protections and laws.

  • Pregnancy Disability Act (PDA): If you have 15+ employees, you must abide by the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act which prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions.
    • Treats pregnancy, pregnancy-related illnesses, and childbirth on an equal basis with all other medical conditions or short-term disabilities. If, for example, your company offers disability benefits, sick leave, or health insurance to other workers while they’re on disability leave, they cannot be denied to you because you’re pregnant.
  • FMLA: If you have 50+ employees, employers must provide new and adoptive moms up to 12 weeks to care for themselves and their infant. FMLA only requires employers to offer unpaid leave for the following:
    • for the birth and care of the newborn child of an employee;
    • for placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care;
    • to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition; or
    • to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.
  • States that require companies with fewer than 50 employees to provide maternity leave include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, and Washington.
    • For example, in California, California Family Rights Act (CFRA), requires covered employers to provide time off for personal illness, to attend to the illness of a family member and in connection with the birth or adoption of a child.
    • In addition, California employers of 20 or more employees are also subject to the New Parent Leave Act (NPLA), which provides time off for baby bonding.