Federal employment laws protect employees working for companies in Michigan from harassment and discrimination. The protection includes pregnancy. When an expectant employee makes a reasonable request to accommodate her physical needs, an employer must comply. 

Reasonable accommodations include time off for medical appointments, reassigning tasks that require heavy lifting and allowing an employee to perform duties while sitting. An employer that would experience severe hardship, however, is exempt from the requirement of providing a reasonable accommodation. Otherwise, when an employee refuses a pregnant employee’s request or engages in harassment, the worker may file a legal action claiming discrimination. 

Pregnant employees file legal action against cargo handler at Detroit airport 

According to the Detroit Metro Times, several employees filed a lawsuit with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against a cargo handling and airline ramp company operating out of the Detroit Metro Airport. The plaintiffs’ complaint alleged pregnancy discrimination by the employer. Instead of providing pregnant employees with reasonable accommodations to carry out their package-handling duties, the employer reportedly forced them to take an unpaid leave of absence. 

Employers may not force unpaid leave on pregnant workers 

When an employee informs her company of a pregnancy, her superior may not assign her to perform tasks unrelated to her regular position. Federal law also prohibits forcing a pregnant worker to take an unpaid leave of absence. As a result of its employees’ lawsuit, the cargo handling company agreed to a settlement of $120,000 and will also provide anti-discrimination training. 

Family Medical Leave Act 

Under the Family Medical Leave Act, qualified employees may request up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off for medical or family reasons. An employer, however, may not force its employees to take the time off if it is not necessary. 

A pregnant employee has the right to request time off when she needs it, and if she is able to perform her job during her pregnancy, an employer may not interfere. Unnecessary stress that creates a hostile workplace after an employer becomes aware of an employee’s pregnancy may be grounds for the worker to file a legal action.