The path of a mother is laden with its peculiarities and challenges, and maternity leave intricacies have ever since been a source of worry for working mothers.

However, One central question remains unanswered: can you be fired after returning from maternity leave? We should explore this issue in depth by looking at its legal landscape.

Now, let’s get started!

1. The Legal Framework of Maternity Leave

In America, maternity leave is protected by the law, which aims to safeguard some employees’ rights.

can you be fired after returning from maternity leave
Source: Freepik

Although the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for specific family or medical reasons, it does not explicitly protect them against being fired after going through post-maternity leave. Nonetheless, other legal avenues and policies contribute to the overall protection of employees.

2. Termination Protections

2.1 Discrimination Protections

Pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions are not available in any circumstance that amounts to discrimination under federal laws; therefore, an employer cannot fire his/her employee simply because she happens to be pregnant or has taken time off due to childbirth.

2.2 FMLA Reinstatement Rights

Any woman on maternity leave is allowed by FMLA legislation to resume duties in her former capacity without suffering salary reduction and loss of benefits.

2.3 State-specific Regulations

These states have additional rules that add even more job protections for new parents, knowing these laws are essential because they go beyond those mandated by the federal government.

Create a Tailored Return-to-Work Program

Jyoti Tewari, the Director of HR at Webuters Technologies Pvt Ltd, suggests proactive steps companies can take to support employees returning from maternity leave:

“I believe a proactive Return-to-Work Program tailored for those returning from maternity leave is crucial for both employee support and risk mitigation.

This program should focus on open communication from the outset, flexible work options, manager training, a mentorship system, and proactive check-ins.

This holistic approach signals that the company values its employees both as parents and professionals, creating a supportive environment that promotes retention.

Importantly, such programs should extend to all types of parental leave to foster a genuinely inclusive workplace, further reducing the risk of termination disputes.”

Jyoti Tewari - Featured
Jyoti Tewari

3. Termination After Returning: Legal Considerations

can you be fired after returning from maternity leave
Source: Freepik

While there are some legal protections in place, it is necessary to recognize instances where termination after returning from maternity leave could be lawful:

3.1 Unrelated Reasons

For example, if an organization is doing downsizing/ restructuring unrelated to pregnancy, it can result in lawful termination.

3.2 Changes in Job Structure

If the business has undergone significant changes in job structures, rendering reinstatement impossible, then the termination may be legal.

3.3 Consistent Treatment

Termination decisions must be consistent with employers’ overall employment practices and policies to avoid discrimination.

4. Employment Insurance (EI) and Severance Considerations

4.1 EI and Severance

In contrast to some countries, such as the UK, the US does not have a national Employment Insurance (EI) program like other countries do. However, severance packages and benefits may apply based on employment contracts and company policies.

4.2 Reporting Additional Income

This additional income is reportable because it may affect unemployment benefits or other entitlements when one has received separation pay after termination.

5. Additional Considerations for Employees

can you be fired after returning from maternity leave
Source: Freepik

5.1 Documentation

An individual can strengthen their case against any illegal activities by keeping proper records of things such as job performance evaluation, communication made with employers and any kind of discriminatory practice at the workplace.

5.2 Understanding Company Policies

Reading through a company’s policy concerning maternity leave itself, re-employment after leave is crucial; this could help an employer understand his or her potential outcomes significantly.

6. Seeking Legal Counsel

It is advisable to consult an attorney if faced with termination upon returning from maternity leave who will assess personal circumstances and advise on what should be done next.

Given the changing landscape of work-life balance and parental rights, it is essential for working mothers to be informed about their rights and possible remedial actions. 

Even with legal protection in America, watchfulness, documentation, and legal counsel are keys to unravelling the intricacies of post-maternity leave employment.

Present Employer-Centric Flexibility Plan

Denise Fowler, the Founder/Career Coach of Career Happiness Coaching, describes effective strategies for negotiating flexible work arrangements after maternity leave:

“When I returned from maternity leave after having twins three years ago, I knew that despite my sleep deprivation and desire to soak in every moment with my young children, my approach to negotiating flexible work arrangements had to be 100% about my employer and 0% about my needs.

I approached my employer with a plan that would allow me to be more accessible and available while still delivering high-quality results.

While I knew that I had carefully thought out this plan to allow me time and space to be with my children as needed based on their schedule now and for the next few years, it was structured so that my employer would not experience any loss in my productivity.

As a career coach, I always tell my clients that when you negotiate, nothing is about you, but you control the narrative. As a new mom, I put this to the test, and it continues to benefit everyone.”

Denise Fowler - Featured
Denise Fowler

7. Other things to consider

Returning to work after maternity leave is a significant shift. With job security concerns still on your mind, this phase can be used strategically to facilitate a successful comeback.

7.1. Professional Networking

Establishing a broad professional network is crucial whether you are building or maintaining it. For example, one could attend industry events, engage with professionals through LinkedIn and reconnect with previous colleagues by phone or email. This way, networking helps open up job opportunities and keeps you updated on changes in trends.

7.2. Skill Showcase

One must have skills and achievements, especially when operating under competitive labour market conditions. Highlight your resume, including experiences that may have been gained before or during maternity leave. This reveals that you are adaptable and proficient in handling various responsibilities.

7.3. Industry Updates

Keep yourself updated about anything happening within the sector; thus, attending webinars, workshops, or online courses may also be helpful.

Refreshing your knowledgebase while showing that you know what’s trending will show how the candidate values currency, enhance the value of a candidate’s work earthiness and display devotion towards professional growth.

can you be fired after returning from maternity leave
Source: Freepik

7.4. Negotiating Flexibility

Negotiations for flexible working hours don’t just end at the negotiation stages but continue even after returning from maternity leave, as part-time jobs can help solve these issues.

Start discussions concerning flexible hours and remote work options such as working from home or part-time schedules with employers right after returning from furlough. The new mom should prioritize achieving a balance between her work requirements while taking into consideration her personal life.

7.5 Continuing Education

Pursue continuous learning through online courses, certifications, or workshops to enhance your skill set. By taking some form of ongoing education, you show commitment to personal and career development, making yourself attractive as a candidate.

Maternity Protection Laws: Return-to-Work Challenges

Thaddeus W. Wendt, the CEO of Feller Wendt LLC, elaborates on the key factors that determine whether a woman can be fired after returning from maternity leave in the United States:

“One of the trickiest issues with maternity protection laws is quite firing. Your employer can’t legally terminate your role because you’ve decided to start a family.

However, there are sneaky ways that some employers try to push out employees when they return. 

It’s a courtesy to make accommodations for a returning mother. That might look like a shortened schedule or a better distributed workload in the first few months as she transitions back.

When an employer intentionally neglects to implement these changes, it creates a gray area in terms of human resource management. 

If it feels like you’re being silently forced out, it may be worth investigating. Then if it does seem to have some bias or discrimination because of your maternity, there may be some legal issues with that treatment.”

Thaddeus Wendt
Thaddeus Wendt

8. Frequently Asked Questions

8.1 Can my employer fire me while I am on leave?

Although maternity leave is protected under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), there is no absolute prohibition on termination during that period. Understanding the terms of eligibility as well as peculiar circumstances is critical.

8.2 Is pregnancy bias illegal in American law?

Indeed, as the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) outlaws any prejudiced actions towards pregnant women and their conditions, employers have an obligation to treat pregnant women fairly, which may be contested in court.

8.3 What happens if they let me go after returning from maternity leave?

Conducting post-maternity leave terminations unrelated to parental leaves is legally acceptable. While considering this, it also becomes vital to know what possible legal remedies exist if you suspect discrimination.

can you be fired after returning from maternity leave
Source: Freepik

8.4 How does Employment Insurance (EI) work if I am terminated during maternity leave?

The United States lacks a universal EI system, but different states offer unemployment benefits. Severance payment can affect eligibility for these benefits, and income may change during this period.

8.5 Can I negotiate a new work arrangement after maternity leave?

There can be negotiation of new terms after a woman’s maternity break. One can opt for post-leave employment bosses by discussing flexible time with them.

8.6 What should I do to find a job after Maternity Leave?

Strong professional networks, industry updates and skills showcases are crucial in enhancing opportunities after returning from maternity leave. Seek legal redress when faced with problems.

Conclusion

However, whether women can lose their jobs in America after they go on maternity leave depends on a range of aspects regarding the law, enterprise regulations, and the reason for firing.

Guest Author: Saket Kumar

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