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Your Maternity Leave Responsibility

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

By April Y. Pennington • Aug 8, 2006 Originally published Mar 3, 2004

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Shifting attitudes toward company loyalty and having a balanced life, especially among the younger work force, are making pregnancy and maternity leave 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 Employment 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 Philadelphia. 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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