New York employers cannot treat female employees unfavorably just because they become pregnant or require leave for childbirth or a medical condition related to their pregnancy. Federal, state, and local laws all prohibit such acts of pregnancy discrimination. Even if an employer thinks it has a good reason for permanently replacing a pregnant worker, the law is quite clear in this area. Employers who think pregnancy discrimination is okay will end up paying the price.
Company to Pay Ex-Employee $50,000 for Illegal Termination
Earlier this year we discussed a pregnancy discrimination complaint brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against an apparel company based here in New York City. The case has now settled. On November 29, the EEOC announced it has obtained relief for a woman who lost her job with the employer after she required an emergency cesarean section.
Specifically, the EEOC said that days after the former employee gave birth to her child, the employer “made plans to replace her and assigned her primary job responsibilities to a less-qualified man in the New York office.” The employer subsequently denied the employee's request to return to work in her pre-pregnancy position, as she is entitled to do under the law. Instead, the employer claimed it had eliminated the employee's position and used that as a pretext for terminating her employment.
Under the settlement terms disclosed by the EEOC, the employer agreed to pay the ex-employee $50,000 in lost wages and other damages. The employer must also complete “multiple steps to prevent future discrimination.” This will include not only better training for supervisors on how to properly work with pregnant employees, but also policies designed to accommodate requests for pregnancy-related leave. The EEOC said it will monitor the employer's progress and compliance with these terms for a period of three years.
In a statement, the director of the EEOC's New York office said, “This case exemplifies the EEOC's commitment to enforcing the law's protections for women in the workplace, including pregnancy and childbirth.”
Asserting Your Legal Rights as a Pregnant Woman
Pregnant women need to understand and assert their legal rights in the workplace. If you are temporarily unable to perform your job due to your pregnancy, your employer must accommodate you in the same manner as any other disabled employee. Depending on the facts and circumstances, this may include providing you with lighter duty, alternative work assignments, or unpaid leave. In some cases, pregnancy-related complications may also qualify you as disabled under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
As long as you remain at work, you have the right to be free from pregnancy-related harassment, either from supervisors or coworkers. Harassment refers to a pattern of conduct that creates a “hostile or offensive work environment.” For example, if your boss consistently makes derogatory remarks in reference to your pregnancy, that would constitute illegal harassment.
If your employer has subjected you to discrimination or harassment arising from your pregnancy or recent childbirth, you need to speak with a qualified New York employment attorney who can advise you of your rights and legal options to remedy the situation. Call the Law Offices of Mahir S. Nisar at 800.496.3076 today to schedule a consultation.