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Delivering the Good News: "Congratulations you're Pregnant!"
Educating Women about Their Maternity Rights

You've just delivered the exciting news of a confirmed pregnancy. For many Expectant parents with their doctorwomen being pregnant is often exhilarating and scary at the same time. There can be many questions and concerns women have about their health, their changing body, and if they work, or are considering employment, what their pregnancy might mean on the job. Women need to know their pregnancy rights. If someone asked you about those rights would you know what to tell them?

Federal Law:

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978 (an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964) prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. The basic principle behind PDA is that pregnant women must be treated the same as other applicants and employees on the basis of their ability or inability to work. A woman is therefore protected against such practices as being fired or refused a job or promotion because she is pregnant. She cannot be forced to go on leave as long as she can still work, and if other employees who take disability leave are entitled to get their jobs back, so are women who have been unable to work because of pregnancy. An employer cannot refuse to hire a woman because of her pregnancy as long as she is able to perform the major functions of her job.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 (29 USC 2601) requires covered employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid family and medical leave to eligible employees. The FMLA affects private employers with 50 or more employees. All public employers are covered, regardless of size. Under FMLA, eligible employees may have the right to substitute paid sick days for any part of a leave taken because of their own serious health condition or to care for a sick spouse, child or parent. The Act does not supersede state laws if the state provides greater leave rights to employees.

North Carolina State Law:

Some states have laws that require private employers to grant employees time off for the birth or adoption of a child, or to care for a family member with a serious illness, but North Carolina does not have such a law. However, most North Carolina employers with 50 or more employees will be covered by FMLA. North Carolina employers with fewer than 50 employees are free to provide paid or unpaid family leave at their own discretion.

Under the law, pregnancy is considered a temporary disability, as are related medical conditions such as severe morning sickness, doctor-ordered bed rest, childbirth, recovery from childbirth, and any other related medical condition.

North Carolina does not have a state law that specifically requires employers to offer pregnancy leave. However, employers with 15 or more employees are covered by the North Carolina Equal Employment Practices Act and must provide the same leave benefits to female employees disabled by pregnancy as are provided to other employees with temporary disabilities. This means that employers can provide leave for employees with temporary disabilities, including pregnancy disability, with or without pay, or not provide it at all, as long as all employees are treated the same in their requests for temporary disability leave (NC Gen. Stat. Art. 49 Sec. 143-422.1 et seq.)

A state employee who has been employed for at least 12 months and worked for at least 1,040 hours during the previous 12-month period is entitled to 12 weeks leave during any 12-month period. A temporary employee is covered if the employee has worked at least 1,250 hours during the past 12-month period. (NC Admin. Code Tit. 25 Sec. 1E.1401 et seq.). Under FMLA leave can be taken for the following reasons:

State employees who do not qualify for FMLA leave may use sick time to care for their newborn or newly adopted child. The leave may be used as follows (NC Admin. Code Tit. 25 Sec. 1E.1102,Sec. 1E.1110):

All pregnant women have maternity rights and choices. Educating her about those rights is important so she can make informed decisions.
At A Glance

  • In 2007, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received 5,587 charges of pregnancy based discrimination and recovered $30 million in benefits
  • Pregnancy discrimination complaints to EEOC rose 65% from 1992 to 2007
  • From 1996 to 2005, complaints by women of color jumped 76%, compared with only 25% overall
  • North Carolina is one of 13 states where pregnancy discrimination charges with the EEOC increased over 50% between 1996 and 2005

Source: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission


Questions? Or need more information?

North Carolina Human Relations Commission: 919-733-7966 or visit

U.S. Department of Labor: For more information on the Family Leave Act, or if you are denied leave or reinstatement to work, call 1-800-827-5335 or visit

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: 1-800-669-4000 or visit

National Partnership for Women and Families: 202-986-2600 or visit

Workplace Fairness: 202-243-7660 or visit

The North Carolina Healthy Start Foundation offers some tools for you to use with the women you see. The materials encourage all women to take care of their health, for themselves, and for their babies should they become pregnant. Publications include Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby, a pregnancy guide and a magazine for new moms titled Taking Care of Me.

To order free educational materials.

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The North Carolina Healthy Start Foundation, 1300 St. Mary's St., Suite 204, Raleigh, NC 27605
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