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Is Pregnancy Considered a Disability?

Although the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not consider pregnancy a disability, pregnancy discrimination is illegal under federal law. Employers must treat pregnant employees who are temporarily unable to work the same way as they would treat any other employee who is temporarily disabled for another reason.

Additionally, if an employee has to miss work because of pregnancy or childbirth (or medical conditions related to either), the employer must hold the job open for the same amount of time as it would for any other employee on leave temporarily for an illness or disability. An employer does not, however, have to hold the job open indefinitely.

The United States does not require employers to provide paid maternity leave for employees who give birth, so if you are thinking of having a child or are already pregnant, it is important to know what kind of short-term disability benefits you are entitled to before you stop working. You may qualify for time off under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and, depending on where you live, your state’s leave laws.

Under FMLA, those who qualify may take up to twelve weeks unpaid leave for a pregnancy, including prenatal care and childbirth, or parenting. If the leave is used for parenting, it must be taken within one year of the child’s birth. To qualify for FMLA, you must: 1) work for a business that employs at least fifty people within a 75-mile radius (including any employees who are part-time, on a leave of absence, or suspended); 2) have worked for the business for at least twelve months (the months do not have to be consecutive); and 3) have worked at least 1,250 hours for that employer in the twelve months prior to the start of your leave.

Some states have their own leave laws that are similar to FMLA, and others offer paid leaves under their disability benefits laws. Currently, eight states provide paid leave for new parents: California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington; the District of Columbia also provides paid leave.

In New York State, for example, those who qualify can receive up to twenty-six weeks of paid benefits. You must fall into one of four categories: 1) have worked at least four weeks for your employer before the start of your leave; 2) have worked for the successor of a covered employer; 3) have worked as a domestic or personal employee at least forty hours per week for your employer; or 4) have worked for an employer who has voluntarily decided to provide you with coverage. Your benefits are typically limited in 2020 to 60% of your average weekly wages.

Short-term disability insurance may be available through your employer. These policies are designed to replace a portion of your paycheck if you cannot work temporarily due to illness or injury, which includes pregnancy. If your employer does not provide short-term disability benefits, you can purchase a short-term disability policy of your own, but these policies may be expensive.