How employers can avoid pregnancy litigation

On Behalf of | May 17, 2022 | Employment Law

Running a business, even in a vacuum, is difficult, but when we add in regulatory oversight and discrimination law, it can become even more complicated. One area that employers often fail to adequately protect themselves is avoiding pregnancy litigation.


Caregiving responsibilities are one common pitfall. Employers should not make any negative employment decision or action based on an employee’s perceived caregiving responsibilities. For example, if a woman has small children and she is not promoted because of it, that is likely not legal, even if the concern relates to her not having enough time. This can be especially problematic if a male employee with small children is promoted instead. Another common mistake is reassignment after maternity leave to a less desirable shift, work, etc.

A demotion out of a fear of being less committed to the job is similarly not allowable. And remember that the Family and Medical Leave Act, also known as FMLA, allows up to 12 weeks of leave, which includes time to care and bond with the newborn.

Forced leave

Sometimes, Arlington employers worry about their pregnant employees, and they force them to take leave. Some even provide additional leave to facilitate it. But, even though this may come from a place of caring and kindness, it is likely illegal discrimination.

As long as the pregnant employee is able to work and wants to work, the employer cannot mandate that she take leave. This is true, even if the pregnant employee has been on leave because of a pregnancy-related condition. If that condition clears up and they want to return to work, the employer cannot mandate that they stay on leave.

Pregnancy leave versus other medical leave

Another common mistake that Texas employers make is treating pregnancy leave differently from any other type of medical leave. For example, some employers have “light duty” designations for only work-related injuries. This is not allowed. Similar ability and inability must be treated similarly, regardless of the reason for the medical issue.

The key takeaway

A key takeaway for Texas business owners is that even when one is looking out for their employee’s best interest (or what they think is in their employee’s best interest), they may run afoul of the law. This is why it is so important to have an attorney look through employee manuals and policies to make sure one’s business is fully protected and covered.