Happy July 4th! Paid Maternity Leave Finally a Reality in NY!

By Jack Tuckner, Esq.

Happy July 4th!
Hopefully you’re lucky enough to have gotten the day off from work, and even more lucky to be paid for the day off from work. That’s not nothing; that’s something actually to celebrate, given the state of most people’s employment in the United States in 2018.

But here’s something that’s tougher to celebrate: did you know that the United States is one of only four countries on Planet Earth that don’t pay working women when they have babies, and can’t work during the time that they’re on what’s commonly called maternity leave? One of four countries in the world. Can you name the other three countries whose company we keep in matters of family values? Two of them are Swaziland and Lesotho–I believe that’s how it’s pronounced but I’ve never heard it pronounced so I have no idea–two high-altitude, apparently landlocked countries somewhere in and around South Africa. And the third country is Papua New Guinea in a place known as Oceana, a place so remote that I looked it up and I still don’t know where it is – a place that you have to stop in Australia on your way there, in the deepest, furthest reaches of the Pacific Ocean, a country on the least developed countries’ list for factors such as low socioeconomic and human rights development. And then there’s us – the fourth country to round out the only four.

And speaking of the paltry number four, there are only four states in the United States that provide for paid family leave when an employed working woman goes out on leave to have her baby. And those laws were just recently enacted, such as the New York Paid Family Leave Law one of four states. The other three are California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. And New York’s Paid Family Leave law was just enacted this January 2018. If you work in one of the other 46 states when your baby is born, you’re entitled to ugatz–that’s old Latin for, you’re-lucky-we’re-even-letting-you-take-time-off-after-your-C-section-and-allow-you-to-come-back-to-a-job-at-all.

But here’s one thing all pregnant working women in the United States now have in every State in the Union, and that’s the right not to be treated differently, not to experience hostility, backlash, a diminution, a degradation to the terms or the conditions or the privileges of your employment because of your pregnancy, because of your childbirth, or because of a related medical condition. And employers must now be flexible with pregnant women and reasonably accommodate their pregnancy-related physical, medical challenges, and employers are not permitted to discriminate or retaliate against pregnant women due to their gestational status or because of taking time off for pregnancy-related disabilities, or because of maternity leave – taking time to heal and bond with your baby after your baby is born.

It’s that simple – if you’re experiencing pregnancy-related discrimination, hostility, retaliation, differential treatment because you’re pregnant – number one: don’t quit. You may be tempted, but if you quit, you are giving up your power, you’re giving up your case, you are throwing out the baby with the bathwater, to coin a phrase. So don’t do it. Number two: put your pregnancy, the fact of your pregnancy or any complaint about your treatment related to your pregnancy, in writing to your company. Mostly to have a provable paper trail that you’re giving your employer the opportunity to reasonably accommodate you, to be notified of your pregnancy, to be flexible, to not discriminate against you, and to fix, correct, remediate any differential treatment that you are experiencing due to your pregnancy. And three: if it can’t be resolved, if your employer escalates the hostility, if things start falling apart at work, contact an employee rights attorney in your area, someone who knows the best strategies to share with you to empower yourself.