Workers are surprised to hear that, in many cases, employers can terminate you on the spot at almost any time. It is called at-will termination, and it allows employers to fire individuals without issuing any kind of warning and without notice.
At-will termination is usually reserved for extreme situations, such as a violent act, insubordination, fraud, stealing, or comparable acts. When at-will terminations occur for lesser offenses, like an accident or a mistake, employers risk looking unfair or capricious. Sometimes terminations lead to lawsuits.
What About Pregnancy?
Under the law, pregnancy does not constitute an extreme situation. It is a natural part of life, and employers must respect it. Termination for being pregnant is specifically forbidden by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). It forbids employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating against workers because of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Pregnant women are to be treated just like any other employee in terms of their ability or inability to work. Employers may not ask a pregnant worker to do more than any other employee with a medical condition.
Pennsylvania’s Human Rights Act likewise forbids discrimination based on pregnancy, pregnancy-related medical conditions, and childbirth. Unlike the federal PDA, Pennsylvania’s law covers all employers with four or more employees. New Jersey law goes even further, forbidding discrimination based on pregnancy or childbirth for employers of any size.
Pregnant Workers Have Rights
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) adds additional rights for some women. Under ADA, employers must provide reasonable accommodations to employees dealing with a pregnancy-related disability, such as gestational diabetes or pregnancy-enhanced migraines.
If your employer has 50 or more employees, you may also be entitled under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to unpaid family leave for medical issues relating to pregnancy and childbirth. It also provides time for either parent to bond with the child. Eligible employees may take up to 12 weeks off work for medical needs and caretaking responsibilities.