Pregnancy, Bed Rest, And FMLA: A Mother’s Rights

One of the most significant complications that can pop during a pregnancy is the need for an extended period of bed rest. Often, bed rest is the treatment of choice for a variety of health complications, including ectopic pregnancies and pre-term labor. In almost 20% of all pregnancies, bed rest of some sort is required. 

Along with the anxiety that goes along with worrying about your unborn child, bed rest can make planning your leave from work difficult. Since there's no way you'll know if you need bed rest until it is prescribed, and you won't know in advance how long it'll last, your reintegration to work can become difficult. Your employer can also have a tough time figuring out how your leave will work. Protecting your rights and your job requires a working knowledge of the Family Medical Leave Act.

FMLA: The Basics

The Family Medical Leave Act is legislation that allows people 12 weeks of unpaid, protected leave every year. The reasons that a person can elect to take this leave include:

  • Giving birth and caring for a newborn child
  • Placing a child into foster care
  • Caring for an ill or injured family member
  • Dealing with a personal illness or injury

Not all places of employment are required to observe this law. Extremely small businesses, for example, are not required to offer this protected leave. Also, in order to be eligible for FMLA time, you'll need to have worked for your employer for at least a year.

Bed Rest and Complications

Sometimes, when a mother is prescribed bed rest, the action is taken entirely on behalf of the unborn child. In other situations, both the life of the mother and child are at risk. The good news is that, in most cases, this distinction does not matter that much. If your place of employment is required to offer FMLA time and you meet the requirements, you can take some of your 12 weeks to deal with bed rest issues. 

On the other hand, especially when the duration of the best rest period is lengthy, you can possibly run out of your 12 weeks of protected leave before you're cleared to return to work. Since most doctors tend to suggest that 6 weeks after delivery is the proper length of time for a natural birth, it would only take an additional 6 weeks of bed rest to exhaust your leave options. Any more than that and you'll run into issues.

Possible Areas of Discrimination

When leave runs out, it's very easy for your employer to fall into the trap of discriminating against you. Fortunately, there are laws that will protect you under these circumstances. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act requires that your employer treat you as they would any other temporarily disabled employee. That means if they have policies dealing with short-term disability leave, you would be able to access that support. Also, if there is a precedent of paid leave or extended job protection, you could be eligible for that as well.

Also, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires your employer to make reasonable accommodations for you while you're recovering. If your doctor clears you for light duty, but not a full workload, they might be required to alter your job so that you can remain employed. However, the extent of these protections and the resulting accommodations are different in every situation. You'll need expert assistance to ensure that your full rights are protected.

Even though the prospect of bed rest and an extended medical absence is scary, it's important to know that you could be protected under the law. By working with an experienced attorney from a law firm like Law Office of Faye Riva Cohen, P.C., you can focus on the important things in these situations--you and your unborn child's health.