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What rights do working moms have in North Carolina?

Understanding the rights afforded to them in the workplace may help working mothers in North Carolina protect their livelihoods and their families.

Gone are the days when the women stayed home and kept the house. Women in North Carolina and throughout the U.S. are more and more juggling the challenges of maintaining a career and raising a family. While federal law establishes certain protections for pregnant and nursing mothers, not all employers are concerned with making the workplace mom-friendly. Therefore, it is important for women in the workforce to understand the rights afforded to them as working mothers in order to help protect themselves and their livelihoods.

While we discuss the obligations of employers generally, whether a given employer has a particular duty under a law normally depends on the employer’s size and type.

Protection against discrimination

When it comes to hiring, firing, making job assignments and deciding on promotions, many employers are prohibited from discriminating against women because of pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition. Further, they cannot hold pregnancy against women when determining pay, layoffs, fringe benefits, and other employment terms and conditions.

During the course of a pregnancy, some women may become temporarily unable to perform their job duties. Under federal law, most women in such circumstances must be treated the same as any other temporarily disabled worker. Thus, many employers may be required to alter pregnant worker assignments, put them on light duty or allow them to take a leave of absence.

Maternity leave

Following the birth of a child, many workers are eligible for 12 weeks of leave to care for their new child. In addition to women who have given birth, fathers, foster parents and adoptive parents may also be eligible for parental leave. Unless they have earned or accrued time off, their employers are not required to compensate them for this time.

Break time for nursing mothers

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act grants many mothers “reasonable break time” to express breast milk as necessary during the workday. Women are afforded this time for up to one year after giving birth. In addition to giving working mothers this time, employers are also required to provide a private space for them to use, other than a restroom.

Covered employers are not required to compensate mothers for nursing breaks. Though, they must be completely relieved of their work duties during this time, or else be compensated appropriately. In situations when employers offer paid breaks and women use that time to express breast milk, they must be compensated in the same way as other workers who use their break time.

Seeking legal assistance

When the rights of working mothers are violated in the workplace, it puts their livelihoods and the care of their families in jeopardy. Therefore, women who have been denied their rights, or have otherwise been discriminated against, may benefit from consulting with an attorney. A legal representative in North Carolina may help them understand their rights and options, as well as guide them through the process of filing a formal complaint or taking legal action.