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New Hampshire Pregnancy Discrimination and Harassment Lawyer

Pregnancy discrimination is, unfortunately, a common problem in the workplace. Many employers do not want to accommodate pregnant employees, wrongly think that female employees will become less committed to their jobs after they have children, or come to unfounded conclusions that pregnant employees will get hurt if they work while pregnant. Fortunately, there are federal laws and New Hampshire state laws that provide some protections for pregnant employees.

Leave From Work

With some limited exceptions, New Hampshire law requires employers to provide women with leave from work if they need it due to a temporary physical disability resulting from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. A woman can take as much leave as her physician says that she needs for these reasons. When she is able to return to work, her employer may only refuse to let her return if some "business necessity" makes her return impossible or unreasonable. An employer must pay a female employee and continue her employee benefits while she is on leave due to a temporary physical disability resulting from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions if it pays employees and covers their benefits while they are on leave for other types of temporary disabilities.

The federal Americans with Disability Act (ADA) also, with limited exceptions, entitles a pregnant employee to medical leave if she becomes temporarily unable to perform her job because of a pregnancy-related disability such as gestational diabetes or preeclampsia. Furthermore, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) applies to employers with 50 or more employees. The FMLA entitles certain employees to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for a variety of reasons including caring for a newborn child. (For more information on the FMLA, see our web page regarding medical leave.)

Sometimes a pregnant employee's problem is not that her employer will not provide her with leave from work but, rather, that her employer requires her to take leave from work. This sometimes happens when pregnant women work in physically demanding jobs and their employers think they will get hurt if they work while pregnant. If a pregnant woman is capable of performing her job, an employer may not force her to take leave.

Accommodations at Work

The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), ADA, and New Hampshire's law against disability discrimination provide some protections for pregnant employees who need reasonable accommodations from their employers in order to perform their jobs. Under the PDA, if you are pregnant and have physical limitations that prevent you from doing your job without a reasonable accommodation, your employer cannot deny your requested accommodation just because you need it due to pregnancy. If your employer has provided reasonable accommodations to non-pregnant employees with the same physical limitations that you have due to your pregnancy but will not accommodate you, that is good evidence your employer has discriminated against you. Under the ADA and New Hampshire's disability discrimination law, if you have a disability related to your pregnancy (such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, anemia, or sciatica) that prevents you from doing your job, your employer must provide you with reasonable accommodations if those accommodations will enable you to do your job.

Differential Treatment due to Pregnancy

Many employers make unfavorable and antiquated assumptions about pregnant women that can result in discrimination. Some employers do not want to employ pregnant women because they think when a woman has children she will be less committed to her job or need to take more time off from work. These assumptions are nonsense but they still happen, in part, because many people wrongly assume that mothers will always serve as the primary caregivers for their children instead of their spouses or partners. If an employer treats you differently because you're pregnant, that is most likely a violation of both New Hampshire and federal law and you may be able to address a violation by asserting your legal rights.

Remedies for Violations of Your Rights

If your employer discriminates against you because you are pregnant, refuses to provide you with legally required medical leave, or refuses to provide you with legally required accommodations, you can pursue legal action to hold your employer accountable for violating your rights. If your employer violated your rights, it can be required to compensate you for back pay, lost benefits, emotional distress, and other harms you suffered. In some cases, employers who violate the rights of pregnant women will have to pay punitive damages.

If you believe an employer has violated your rights, contact the New Hampshire Employee Rights Group. Our attorneys have decades of experience fighting for the rights of employees and we can advise you of your options.