Since 2011, according to the EEOC, they have filed over 45 lawsuits involving pregnancy discrimination and have recovered over $3.5 million as well as instituting programs and follow up on the companies involved.
Being pregnant does not mean less capable
As many husbands who have dealt with a pregnant wife know most pregnant women are capable of working hard long into their pregnancies. Certainly there are some women that have complications that may restrict what they can do and for how long, but under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act that is not for an employer to decide. When the work involves thinking and not lifting pregnancy does not diminish a woman’s intellectual capabilities. Unfortunately, according to Paul Lusky of Ford Harrison, one company forgot that.
Denied a promotion
Lusk reports that the EEOC has sued a healthcare company for denying a female employee a promotional opportunity due to her pregnancy and giving the open position to a less qualified male employee. The female employee’s claim was bolstered by the statement of an associate vice president of the company who told her the company “had considered her for the open manager position but decided to promote a less experienced male employee instead because she ‘had been on maternity leave for a while.’” Lusk states “Even when there is no explicit acknowledgment of an intent to discriminate by management, an employee claiming pregnancy discrimination can use circumstantial evidence to prove her case. Circumstantial evidence of discrimination includes ambiguous statements, suspicious timing, and instances in which similarly situated, non-pregnant employees received systematically better treatment.”
The basic tenet of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act is that a woman that is pregnant must be treated as any other employee. Her pregnancy must be ignored. Unfortunately many companies think this means ignoring the employee. That is a recipe for disaster and will result in a waste of time and money and cause harm to the company’s reputation. If your actions in how you treat a pregnant employee are different than how you would treat her if she were not pregnant then you must have a bona fide business justification for doing so. The EEOC and the courts interpret those very strictly so tread with care.
Photo credit: David Castillo Dominici