Unemployment Eligibility When You Are Pregnant

Pregnant woman on couch
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Unemployment insurance is a government benefits program that provides workers with a safety net in case of job loss, through no fault of their own, such as in the case of a layoff or company closure. Through unemployment, you get a portion of what your salary was when you were employed. While there are ways to get disqualified from being eligible for unemployment benefits, being pregnant is not one of them.

Pregnancy should not impact your unemployment entitlements. In the last fifty years, the United States government has created laws protecting new mothers with employment outside of the home. For example, the Family Medical Leave Act allows parents to take time off without punishment, and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act made firing a worker on account of pregnancy illegal. In addition to these, new mothers are also eligible for unemployment benefits.

What Is Required to Be Eligible for Unemployment?

You are eligible for unemployment if:

  • You were fired or laid off through no fault of your own or were forced to quit under extreme circumstances
  • Are able to work another job matching your skills
  • Worked for a company that paid unemployment taxes
  • Earned enough money to qualify for unemployment

Being pregnant in and of itself does not affect your eligibility; it is a violation of federal and state law to deny a claimant eligibility for unemployment on account of pregnancy.

Pregnancy on its own cannot affect your benefits. When applying for unemployment, a woman will not be asked whether or not she is expecting. Pregnancy should be completely out of the equation, as the reasons for seeking unemployment benefits must be entirely beyond a person’s control, pregnant or not. However, if you are unable to work because you are pregnant, you may be covered by disability insurance instead of unemployment, because one of the criteria for collecting unemployment is being able to work.

A person must be able to claim that they are available to work and are actively seeking new employment in order to remain compliant with the unemployment eligibility requirements. In the case of pregnancy, if you have been put on bed rest by a doctor, you would not be considered 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 ability to work in your original job. In the case above, if you are bedridden, your ability to work in your previous job or a new job would be affected, and therefore you would not be eligible for these benefits.

When reviewing eligibility, state governments should not be considering pregnancy as a reason to deny a person their benefits. Pregnant women should continue to receive her deserved benefits for as long as she is able to work and seek employment. Over time, when nearing the end of pregnancy, her situation may change, which may affect her eligibility, depending on the situation.

If your unemployment claim is denied, you will be able to appeal a denial of benefits.

Legal Protections

It is unlawful under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 to fire an employee because of pregnancy. If fired while pregnant for other reasons, however, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protects your right to collect unemployment.

Filing for Unemployment

You can file for unemployment as any unemployed worker would. You will not be asked if you are pregnant. The filing system will ask if you are available to work, and as long as you do not have a doctor's excuse, you can answer yes.

Filing weekly can continue as long as you are not working full time, you are able to work, and you are still eligible for benefits. However, if you file a claim for the week you give birth, you should respond that you were unavailable for work. You will not receive benefits until you are able to work, but will remain in the system until your doctor allows you to return. When you get approval from your doctor, file the next week that you are available for work and your unemployment benefits will continue.

How to File an Unemployment 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. Here's how to file an unemployment appeal.

Maternity Leave

Unfortunately, you cannot file for unemployment while on maternity leave, but you may be eligible for paid leave through your employer.