Can I be denied part-time work from home pursuant to maternity discrimination laws?

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Can I be denied part-time work from home pursuant to maternity discrimination laws?

My maternity leave starts this. My manager and I had discussed me working part-time from home until I had the baby in a little over a month. This manager quit. It was determined by my new boss last week that I could not work part time with the accounts from home because they want me to “focus on the baby and not leave the accounts hanging if I go into labor early”. HR got involved. My MD stated that I could work part-time from home; making phone contacts and emails. However they are now saying that I can work part-time at the office filing, doing small projects vs aspects of my full-time position.

Asked on June 21, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

This is a complex issue; you should consult with an employment law attorney, who can evaluate all the circumstances relating to your personal situation. Here are the factors, pro- and con, to bear in mind:

In your favor is that discrimination against women is illegal, which takes in discrimination against pregnant women and mothers. It is also specifically illegal to discriminate against pregnant women.

Against you is that a company's obligation, to avoid discrimination against women, is to take treat a woman differently, on account of her being a woman, than it treats others. That means that if other workers, with a similar job to you, are allowed to work at home, then you must be given that chance, too. However, if they don't allow anyone to work at home, they don't need to offer it to you.

Similarly, in terms of not discriminating against you because you are pregnant, they have to make "reasonable accomodations" for your pregnancy (it's the same sort of thing they need to do for anyone with a "disability"--pregnancy is treated like a disability for this purpose). However, a reasonable accomodation must be something the company can do without too much expense or disruption. If it's the case that you can't effectively do your job from home, then they don't have to let you do this. This is something you need to discuss with your attorney, since the specifics of your job and the company play into what is reasonable.

Finally, if there was an agreement made to let you work at home, the company *may* have to honor it, but typically only if it was a firm agreement (not just discussions) or if you took some action based on it (e.g. passed up a different job). You can discuss this with your attorney, too, to see if whatever promises or agreements were made are enforceable.


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