Menopause in the Workplace: What Are Your Rights?

Jul 26 2023

Amanda DeMatteis: Hi, Josh.

Josh Goodbaum: Hi, Amanda. What are we talking about today?

DeMatteis: I thought we would talk about menopause. Not a typical topic that we cover here on these videos, but something that really does impact the workplace. For the first time, we’re seeing menopause be spoken about more openly: the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama are talking about their struggles with menopause and how it has impacted their lives.

Just like those celebrities, Connecticut women are experiencing the same things. And I thought it would be really useful to talk to them about what type of protections they may have at work when they’re going through menopause and what they can do if they need help.

Goodbaum: I love that we’re talking about this, Amanda, because there is a stigma around menopause and frankly, there shouldn’t be — it’s a natural part of life for women. But it’s also potentially a workplace problem, and that leads us to want to be talking about it.

Some statistics first: according to studies, one-third of older women report having difficulties at work because of menopause, and as many as 20% of women report taking time off because of symptoms associated with menopause. According to a recent study from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, menopause costs American women who take time off almost $2 billion per year in lost working time and lost compensation.

We’re starting to see a move to make workplaces more menopause-friendly, and that’s a good thing. This is a movement that started in the United Kingdom, but it might be coming to New York City. According to a recent article in the New York Times, menopause-friendly workplaces would have training about symptoms and awareness of menopause. They could offer physical accommodations like desk fans or modified uniforms, and they could offer more flexible schedules for women who are having intermittent problems with menopause and could use a day off here or there.

But I want to make sure that women in Connecticut know that they already have a right to a day off here or there. And that’s because they are empowered to take intermittent FMLA leave. That’s the Family and Medical Leave Act we’ve talked so much about and that allows employees to take time off either on a consecutive or an intermittent basis to deal with their own or their family member’s serious health condition. And menopause – if it’s causing symptoms that affect the workplace – certainly qualifies as a serious health condition under the FMLA.

So, if you need a day off here or there, think about FMLA, and also remember that in Connecticut, we have paid FMLA. So you don’t necessarily have to lose your entire paycheck because you need to take a day off here or there to deal with the symptoms of menopause.

I also want to make sure that Connecticut women know that menopause cannot be the basis for harassment or discrimination in the workplace. It’s not exactly that menopause is a protected category under the law, but it’s related to so many protected categories under the law. Of course, it’s only women who are going through menopause. It’s only older women. So it implicates sex and age. And menopause – if it rises to the level of a chronic health condition that is having real, tangible physical and mental side effects – constitutes a disability.

So, if you are experiencing discrimination or harassment in your workplace because you have menopause or because you’ve been open that you’re going through menopause, it might be time to talk with an employment lawyer and seek some advice.

DeMatteis: So important. I’m glad we’re talking about this. Thank you for that information, Josh. And we’ll see you next time.

Goodbaum: Thank you.

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amanda dematteis discussing menopause in the workplace

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