Pregnancy should be an enjoyable time in a woman’s life. In 1978, the United States Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which made it unlawful to discriminate against a woman based on pregnancy, potential to become pregnant, birth of a child, or any medical needs or condition related to a pregnancy or birth of a child. This law prohibits harassment based on pregnancy as well as discrimination in any employment decision, including hiring, promotion, pay raises, or termination. The law also protects employees from retaliation for making use of allowed maternity leave or other time off due to pregnancy and related conditions. Furthermore, the law legally requires employers to provide women who are pregnant or who have the potential to become pregnant with the same insurance coverage, leave time and pay, and any other benefits provided to any other employee with a disability or medical condition.
Recent Pregnancy Discrimination Case
Learning that you have a high-risk pregnancy is stressful for any mom-to-be. However, one woman in a recent case had that stress exacerbated by her employer. Shawna Graves worked as a warehouse manager for Pau Hana Group, which supplies aerospace fasteners to corporations and the government. After one year of employment in October 2012, Graves informed her direct supervisor, Kathy Clark, that she had a high-risk pregnancy that would require additional doctor’s appointments. Graves claims that almost immediately, Clark began to:
-Treat Graves with anger and hostility
-Use foul language toward Graves
-Make false accusations regarding her work performance
-State that her pregnancy rendered her lazy, incompetent, and useless
-Threw paper at her
-Ordered Graves to not look at or talk to her for five weeks
-Berated her in front of colleagues
-Stated Graves failed to be a team player
Graves stated the harassment and mistreatment usually coincided with her absences for necessary doctor’s appointments. Graves reported the behavior to the CEO of the company, however the CEO took no action to stop the behavior. Graves own team began to tell her she was not a team player, apparently influenced by Clark’s comments. Finally, in December, Graves received an email that had been ratified by the CEO, Clark, and all the employees stating they no longer wanted Graves as an employee and that her employment was terminated.
A federal district court denied the employer’s motion to dismiss Graves’s claims of retaliation. The court noted the temporal proximity of the verbal abuse and termination to her announcement of her high-risk pregnancy in its decision. Furthermore, because the behavior often coincided directly with her prenatal doctor appointments, Graves satisfied the causation element of a retaliation claim.
No woman should have to deal with harassment or retaliation due to a pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions. If you believe you have been the victim of such unlawful discrimination at work, call the experienced employment attorneys at HKM today.