Does Pregnancy Affect Unemployment Benefits?

Pregnant woman on couch
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If you are pregnant and lose your job, you may still be eligible for unemployment benefits. Over the past 50 years, the federal government has passed a number of laws protecting pregnant women and new mothers from employment discrimination or hardship.

Unemployment benefits programs are intended to provide a safety net for workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own. If you're laid off or your company closes, you're entitled to receive a portion of your salary through the government. There are ways to get disqualified from eligibility, but being pregnant is not one of them.

For example, the Family Medical Leave Act allows parents to take a limited time off without punishment, and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act made firing a worker on account of pregnancy illegal.

Women who are pregnant and new mothers are also eligible for unemployment benefits.

Who Is Eligible for Unemployment?

You are eligible if:

  • You were fired or laid off through no fault of your own or were forced to quit under extreme circumstances.
  • You are available to work at another job matching your skills.
  • You worked for a company that paid unemployment taxes.
  • You earned enough money to qualify for benefits.

You cannot file for unemployment benefits while on maternity leave. 

It is a violation of federal law to deny a claimant eligibility for unemployment benefits on account of pregnancy. In fact, a woman applying for benefits should not be asked whether she is expecting.

However, the program requires recipients to be available for work that uses their skills, and actively seeking a job. If you are unable to work because you are pregnant, you may be covered by disability insurance instead of unemployment benefits. For example, if your doctor has ordered you on bed rest, you would not be immediately available to work, and therefore would not be eligible for employment. 

Disclosing Your Pregnancy

You are not required to disclose your pregnancy unless it affects your availability for the kind of work you usually do. For example, if you're a house painter and your doctor orders you to avoid paint fumes during your pregnancy, you could be unable to take a new job if it became available. In that case, you might be ruled ineligible.

A pregnant woman should be eligible to receive benefits for as long as she is able to work. If her situation changes, she may lose her right to claim benefits.

If your unemployment claim is denied, you can appeal a denial of benefits.

Legal Protections

It is illegal under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 to fire an employee because she is pregnant. If you are pregnant and are fired for other reasons, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protects your right to collect unemployment benefits.

Filing for Unemployment

Most state unemployment offices allow applicants to file for unemployment online. Some also allow applications by phone or mail. In any case, you will not be asked if you are pregnant. You will, though, be asked if you are available to work.

Once your application is approved, you'll file weekly. As long as you are not working full time and are able to work, you are eligible for benefits.

If you file a claim for the week you give birth, you should indicate that you were not available for work that week. Your name will remain in the system until your doctor says you can return to work. You can file for the next week and your unemployment benefits will resume.

Filing an Appeal

If your unemployment claim is denied by the state unemployment department or contested by your employer, you have the right to appeal the denial of your unemployment claim.

The information contained in this article is not legal advice and is not a substitute for such advice. State and federal laws change frequently, and the information in this article may not reflect your own state’s laws or the most recent changes to the law.