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Your Maternity Leave Responsibility

Maternity leave is a hot issue. Find out how to handle it without ruffling any feathers.

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This story appears in the March 2004 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Shifting attitudes toward company loyalty and having a balanced life, especially among the younger work force, are making pregnancy and issues a hot topic for business owners. And with female and male employees expanding their families, they're watching how you respond to the issue. Your actions can either help retain employees, or create misunderstandings and legal tangles that drain the business's finances and productivity.

The U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission reports a 26 percent increase in pregnancy discrimination claims from 1996 to 2002. However, there's no way of knowing how many instances have really occurred, says Deborah Weinstein, employment and business law lecturer at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and lawyer for Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott LLCin . While the employees who are able to file lawsuits usually don't make it to trial, and lawsuits are typically dismissed or settled, Weinstein cautions, "once a plaintiff gets to trial, [there's] a very good chance of winning."

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