woman with baby on her shoulder

Laid Off While Pregnant or on Maternity Leave

By Tom McKinney
NJ Employment Attorney

Pregnancy is a universal concept. Every person alive today — and every person who will ever be alive in the future — is the child of someone who was once pregnant. Despite pregnancy’s crucial role in continuing humanity’s existence, it is not a well-protected life state in the United States. 

Indeed, the U.S. is one of the few countries in the world that doesn’t require employers to provide paid leave or grant government benefits to employees who are pregnant. There are some protections, though. And if you are pregnant or about to become pregnant, you should understand your rights.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

The FMLA allows pregnant individuals to take time off to give birth and bond with their children without losing their jobs. However, even this protection has limitations. For instance, your employer must either be a government-affiliated agency or have at least 50 employees within 75 miles of where you work. It also only applies if you:

  • Have worked at your job for at least a year
  • Worked at least 1,250 hours in the last year
  • Provide at least 30 days’ notice to your employer, if possible

If all these are true, you can take up to 12 weeks off without fear of losing your job.

NJ Family Leave Act (NJFLA)

New Jersey allows you to take an additional 12 unpaid weeks off to bond with your child without danger of being fired. The requirements to use this time are similar to the requirements for the FMLA.

Can you get laid off while pregnant?

You can’t be fired for taking time off due to pregnancy. However, that doesn’t prevent you from getting laid off while pregnant or on maternity leave.

This was an issue recently following mass layoffs in the tech industry. Many of those who lost their jobs were pregnant or on maternity leave. This is legal because the company claimed they weren’t released due to their pregnancies — they simply happened to be laid off on maternity leave or while pregnant.

However, it is possible that these companies aren’t telling the truth. If you have reason to believe you were chosen specifically because you were currently taking time off or because your company expected you to take time off shortly, you can file a lawsuit for workplace discrimination.

Getting Benefits After Being Laid Off on Maternity Leave

Many tech companies offer remarkably good pregnancy benefits. The most generous businesses offer paid time off for both parents before and after a child is born. 

Unfortunately, these are contractual and not protected by state law. Thus, if you are legally let go while on maternity leave, your employer can stop paying those benefits immediately — an outcome that many recently laid off in the tech industry have experienced.

What to Do if You Suspect Your Layoff Was Because of Your Pregnancy

While layoffs usually aren’t random, they are supposed to be based on financial considerations and the benefits that individual workers provide to the company. They should not target any protected classes. And being pregnant makes you part of a protected class according to both state and federal laws.

If you have any reason to believe that your employer fired you because you were currently on maternity leave (or would be soon), contact an employment attorney in New Jersey as soon as possible. You can obtain compensation for that violation of your rights.

Speak to an Employment Lawyer Today

If you are pregnant or about to become pregnant, consult with an employment law attorney at NJ Employment Lawyers before informing your supervisor. We can help you protect your rights during this blessed event in your life.

About the Author
Tom McKinney is a skilled employment law attorney with New Jersey Employment Lawyers LLC. He has a track record of success in all areas of employment law, including sexual harassment, discrimination, harassment, wrongful discharge, whistleblower claims and hostile work environment claims. Besides litigation, Tom handles severance agreements and severance package reviews/negotiations for over 100 people each year. If you have any questions regarding this blog, contact Tom here.