Your Rights as a Pregnant Associate/Employee Dentist

Guidelines for Practice Success | Managing Pregnancy | Business Operations

As an employee/associate dentist, or a dental student, it’s not unusual for you to sometimes feel as though you’re walking the dividing line between two worlds: on one hand, you’re an educated and skilled clinician who provides individualized treatment for each patient; on the other hand – and depending on the management style and philosophy of the practice in which you work -- you may feel challenged in your autonomy to manage your schedule and production while simultaneously feeling constrained by the practice’s policies relating to pregnant employees. Rest assured that you’re not alone in feeling that way and that resources, including this one, are available to help you learn your rights and responsibilities as a pregnant employee. Two key federal mandates that may be relevant, depending upon the size of the practice in which you work, to pregnant workers are the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA); articles specific to those regulations appear in this section of the resource. Be aware that other relevant rules, statutes, and regulations can exist at the federal, state, and local levels; generally speaking, the most stringent rule always takes precedence.

Once you’re aware of your rights — and your responsibilities — as a pregnant employee, it’s a good idea to research your employer’s policies, benefits, and practices relating to the management of pregnant employees.

If your research leads you to believe there might be discrepancies in what’s legally required versus the reality within the practice:

  • Determine whether – and how – to bring the issue to management’s attention.
    • It’s a good rule of thumb to manage discussions on topics such as this in private instead of during a formal meeting among all employees.
    • Be aware that, if you work in a large group practice, it’s possible that decisions about staff policies and benefits may be made higher up in the chain of command and that can take additional time.
    • Decide what outcome you want and what outcome you’re willing to accept.

Always remember that you have the right to work in an environment that keeps you and your baby safe and that your efforts to ensure the fair treatment of pregnant employees is good training for your future role as your baby’s primary advocate.