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Rice Law Office Blog

This blog reviews important legal issues including: personal injury, employee compensation, workers compensation, discrimination and wrongful termination.

Pregnancy and Employment: What Are Your Rights?

Pregnancy and Employment: What Are Your Rights?

Pregnancy and childbirth demand huge amounts of time and energy from both parents, and the law provides for special benefits and protections for employees having a child. Many companies don’t have a clear understanding of their obligations towards employees expecting a child, and as protections expand in the wake of a new Supreme Court ruling employees should seek to understand the protections they are offered under the law. 

Employees should actively educate themselves on their rights, and be sure they receive the benefits they are owed before and after the birth of their child. Employers are obligated to provide accommodated work duties for pregnant employees with physical limitations and allow leave time for employees expecting a child. 

Companies cannot discipline or discharge an employee based upon pregnancy.  New Hampshire law has long been at the leading edge of protecting rights of pregnant employees and provides protections for the entire period of disability related to pregnancy which could include time out of work for conditions such as pre-term labor or postpartum depression.

Employees who have not been provided with the appropriate benefits and protections may be owed compensation—AutoZone recently lost a case and was forced to pay $185 million in damages after firing an employee following childbirth.  Companies have an obligation to their employees, and there are legal consequences to not meeting them.

As an employee, if you’re expecting a child and want to understand more about your rights and protections at work you should contact a lawyer.  You have a right to time off and protection of your job status.

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Mother's Day and Gender Equality in the Workplace

Mother's Day and Gender Equality in the Workplace

With Mother’s Day just behind us, most of us probably spent some time and money in appreciation of our Mom. On average Americans spent $169 on Mother’s Day in 2013— a better use of our resources might be reviewing the current state of gender equality in the workplace. Despite our heavy spending on Mother’s Day, the US could do significantly more to ensure that moms everywhere have equal opportunity, pay, and protections in the workplace. Here are some areas we could improve on:

Women still earn significantly less than their male counterparts. Full-time, year round female employees earn 77 percent of their male counterparts, and while this gap has narrowed over time, there’s still significant work to be done.Women are significantly underrepresented at the highest levels of corporate management, and female executives are still a rarity. Only 7 percent of S&P 1500 companies have a top female manager, up from 1.6 percent in 1992. Unfortunately, most companies with a woman in their top five executive positions had only one woman in that group.The United States is one of only two countries in the world that provided no paid time off for new mothers. While we do have laws in place that ensure women can take time off without risking their job following the birth of a child, it is not paid, and lengthy leaves are often frowned upon.

Some states do provide greater protections for women in the workplace, extending beyond what is federally required. The state of California has mandated 6 weeks of partially paid maternity leave since 2002, and more than 90% of companies in the state have reported positive or neutral effects.

New England states also tend to provide greater protections for female employees—a 2015 study included Vermont (#1), New Hampshire (#4), Massachusetts (#5), and Maine (#8) in its top ten most friendly states for working mothers.

While most moms appreciate flowers, chocolate, and jewelry on Mother’s Day, there are bigger (and more meaningful) gifts we could be giving to mothers across the country. Equal pay, greater professional opportunity, and paid maternity leave would be good starting points.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia user Unforgettableid under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License.

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