As all employment lawyers, we harangue clients to draft and follow employment policies and procedures manuals. Such manuals can be of great assistance in warding off discrimination claims and in winning them.
However, it should be obvious that this is surely not the case if the employment policies and procedures manual memorializes a discriminatory policy. That’s just what one employer did and is now being sued by the EEOC.
The EEOC alleges that a Texas company violated Title VII when it fired pregnant employees after their third month of pregnancy — under a written policy in the employee handbook. Apparently, a company manager admitted that company procedure required him to fire the women because it would "be irresponsible in respect to her child’s safety" to keep them at work, even though one woman’s doctor wrote that she could work until the 36th week of her pregnancy.
One EEOC attorney stated that "An employer cannot dictate, out of a desire to protect a pregnant employee or for any other reason, whether a female employee continues to work during her pregnancy." A second noted that "The Supreme Court has made clear that the decision whether a pregnant woman should work rests solely with her. She alone, and not the employer, is responsible for making decisions that affect her safety and that of her child. An employer’s policy which forces leave on a pregnant employee is exactly the type of conduct the Supreme Court has found to be unlawful."
Employers: don’t presume to know better than the doctor or the law!