For Women Who Work, Suffering a Miscarriage Can Mean Losing a Pregnancy and Safety Net
Along with the trauma of losing a pregnancy, women in the workforce often find themselves facing an uncomfortable reality if and when they return to their jobs. Assuming your position is still there for you after taking much-needed time away, you might now find yourself surrounded by well-meaning people who knew you were expecting a child, or at the very least are wondering why you've been gone. Deciding how or whether to explain such an absence at all adds a whole new layer of difficulty to an already distressing time. Beyond the emotional and interpersonal aspects to consider, there's also the complicated issue of whether you'll be paid, or even if you can be fired, for taking time off work to heal.
Under federal law, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees that some people are safe from losing their job if they need to take up to 12 weeks off from work for a qualifying medical condition. That condition could be physical or emotional, but unfortunately, this protection doesn't apply to everyone. Generally, people need a doctor to confirm that they need to take leave. However, if you haven't worked at least 1,250 hours at your job within the past 12 months (which averages out to just over 24 hours each week), FMLA doesn't apply to you. And even if you have put in the hours, if your employer doesn't employ at least 50 people within a 75-mile radius, that employer is exempt from the law.
There is potentially another way to get protected time off from work. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a person who needs accommodation for a disability, like having had a miscarriage, can't be fired, have their hours cut, or have their schedule changed, either for asking for time off or taking leave. Employers with at least 15 employees have to abide by these rules, so long as it won't create an undue hardship on the employer.
But when it comes to wage protection, there are no federal protections. While some companies offer full wage replacement as a benefit for people while they're out on medical leave, they don't have to. Some states, like California, New York, and a few others on the East and West Coasts, have laws that are more protective of employees, but in Middle America, additional employee protections are harder to come by.
In reality, managing a miscarriage and the demands of a job can play out in a lot of different ways for different women. POPSUGAR talked with four women across the country, in a variety of financial and workplace situations, to learn what challenges they faced while dealing with their own individual pregnancy losses.