Pregnant women

Understanding Pregnancy Disability Leave in West Virginia

Atkinson & Frampton, PLLC March 13, 2023

Pregnancy and parenting are two of the most important life changes that an individual can take on. That’s why it’s important to ensure that pregnant individuals have access to the resources they need to care for themselves and their families.  

If you want to know your rights under pregnancy disability leave laws in West Virginia, our attorneys at Atkinson & Frampton, PLLC can help. Our employment law attorneys in Charleston, West Virginia, represent employees who want to protect or enforce their rights under federal and state law throughout the state of West Virginia, including Beckley, Morgantown, Martinsburg, Parkersburg, and Huntington.  

What Is Pregnancy Disability Leave in West Virginia?  

Pregnant workers are protected by the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). The federal law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees or applicants due to their pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Under this law, employers must provide reasonable accommodations for any employee affected by a pregnancy-related condition as long as it does not impose an undue hardship on the employer. 

In addition to federal protections, pregnant workers in West Virginia are also protected by the West Virginia Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act. This act requires employers with 12 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees. The only exception is if doing so would create an undue hardship on the employer. These accommodations may include providing additional bathroom breaks or modified job duties that do not put the employee’s health at risk.  

Who Is Eligible to Take Pregnancy Disability Leave?  

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employees can use FMLA leave during pregnancy and after childbirth. Under federal law, eligible individuals can use 12 weeks of pregnancy disability leave for: 

  • Childbirth 

  • Prenatal care 

  • Incapacity related to pregnancy 

  • Serious health conditions related to childbirth 

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, in order for an employee to be eligible for FMLA leave under federal law, they must meet certain criteria:  

  1. Working for a covered employer; 

  1. Must have worked at least 12 months with the same employer; and 

  1. Must have worked at least 1,250 hours during those 12 months prior to taking leave.  

If you believe that your request for pregnancy disability leave was wrongfully denied, do not hesitate to contact an employment law attorney to fight for your rights.  

What Qualifies as a Disability?  

Under federal law, pregnancy disability leave is a leave a woman takes due to pregnancy, childbirth, or conditions resulting from pregnancy or exacerbated due to pregnancy/childbirth.  

Qualifying disabilities may include morning sickness, pre-term labor, bed rest prescribed by a doctor, postpartum depression, or any other physical or mental condition caused by pregnancy or childbirth that prevents them from performing their job duties.  

Can I Take Part-Time or Reduced Schedule Leave? 

Yes, the FMLA allows employees to take part-time or reduced schedule leave when doing so is necessary for medical reasons. However, this only applies to pregnancy or medical leave. For example, if an employee has a prenatal appointment, they can use several hours of their FMLA leave for the appointment and then return to work. The same applies to pregnancy-related ailments that only last a few hours (e.g., morning sickness).  

The same cannot be said about parental leave. If you wish to use some (but not all) of your parental leave – which is also referred to as using parental leave intermittently – you may need to come to an agreement with your employer first.  

Will I Get Paid During My Time Off?  

No, FMLA leave is always unpaid. West Virginia does not have additional laws that would provide employees with paid family leave or paid short-term disability benefits. However, depending on the circumstances, it may be possible to use your accrued paid leave during your time off. In addition, some employers may offer parental benefits or maternity/paternity leave benefits.  

Will I Still Have My Benefits/Insurance on Leave?  

Yes. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protects employees from losing their health insurance while they are on leave due to pregnancy or any other medical condition. Your employer cannot reduce or terminate your coverage while you are out on leave. Additionally, FMLA guarantees that when you return from leave, your job will be waiting for you with the same pay and conditions as before. 

Is My Job Protected While I’m on Leave?   

Yes, employers are prohibited from firing an employee due to their pregnancy. Employers and a pregnant employee’s co-workers are also prohibited from harassing the pregnant employee because of their pregnancy. The only exceptions to this job protection rule are when the entire department where the pregnant employee works is being eliminated or if the pregnant employee is a bad worker.  

Protect Your Rights as You Grow Your Family  

Pregnancy disability leaves can be confusing—but they don’t have to be. Knowing your rights when it comes to taking time off for a qualifying pregnancy-related disability can help you make informed decisions about your health and well-being during this important time in your life—and also protect you from potential discrimination from your employer. Contact an employment law attorney at Atkinson & Frampton, PLLC for more information about your rights under these laws.