The EEOC has just sued one company for alleged pregnancy discrimination, and settled another such suit. It appears from the EEOC press releases that the employers felt that it was not good for the pregnant women to be working.
According to one suit, a Maryland company fired an employee who notified it that she was pregnant and asked “to be excused from working with certain cleaning products.”
Rather than engage in an interactive process to attempt to achieve an accommodation, a manager “demanded that she provide medical documentation confirming that she was pregnant and clearing her to work with cleaning chemicals.” Although her doctor would not provide the required documentation, she still decided to continue to perform her normal duties. She was fired.
The company just agreed to settle the matter for $25,000 and other “significant remedial relief.” Said an EEOC district director: “We still receive far too many pregnancy discrimination charges where a lower-income worker is fired simply because of pregnancy. It’s in society’s interest, as well as required by federal law, to allow a pregnant worker to continue to work and support herself and her family when she is able to do the job, as [plaintiff] was.”
In a second just-filed suit, the EEOC claimed that a spa franchise in Charlotte, NC fired a just-hired employee (a front desk associate) because she had just notified it that she was pregnant. According to the EEOC, the clinic manager told her that “ pregnant women should not be working.”
Another bad move.
You Cannot Fire Or Place A Pregnant Employee On Leave Because “The Baby Is Taking Its Toll On You” Or Because Of Potential Harm To The Baby Or Because “Pregnant Women Should Not Work”
Last December we reported that the EEOC is continuing to implement its Strategic Plan for FY 2012-2016 and began implementing its Strategic Enforcement Plan (“SEP”)(see: http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/plan/index.cfm), and wrote that in furtherance of the SEP, “two EEOC officials told a PLI audience as to what areas the EEOC intended to target in its future litigation. … the EEOC said that it would file more suits relating to: vulnerable workers (i.e., immigrants and migrants); emerging legal issues under the ADA Amendments Act and ADA accommodations, discrimination against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (“LGBT”) community; accommodation for pregnant workers; sexual harassment; Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (“GINA”) cases; and the use of criminal records in hiring (emphasis added).”
A “low income” pregnant employee counts for two of the EEOC’s target groups.
On March 13, 2013 we cautioned that the EEOC is serious about pursuing discrimination cases filed under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) – very serious – especially if you fire a pregnant employee because of outdated myths or stereotypes or couched in the language of safety and health. That is, you cannot claim that disparate treatment of pregnant employees is justified by concern for the unborn child.
See also our post of April 18th entitled “You Cannot Discriminate Against A Pregnant Employee Because Of ‘Outdated Myths Or Stereotypes Or Couched In The Language Of Safety And Health.’”
Takeaway: We have repeatedly issued this warning, and have cited new case filings or settlements to support our concerns. Take this seriously … because the EEOC has made obtaining not just monetary damages but also “targeted, equitable relief” – such as all sorts of injunctions — one of its top priorities … This means that you could be scrutinized closely by the EEOC and/or the Court for years.”