Pregnant women often face significant challenges in the workplace. Employment discrimination laws protect female employees from any kind of retaliation based on the fact they are pregnant or recently had a baby. For instance, the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) requires all New York employers to treat a female employee who is unable to work due to pregnancy-related complications the same as any other “temporarily disabled employee.”
So, if an employer typically offers unpaid leave to disabled employees, similar treatment must be extended to an employee recovering from childbirth. The employer cannot simply fire the employee.
Woman Allegedly Replaced by “Less-Qualified Man”
Despite the law's clarity on this issue, many employers continue to discriminate against pregnant women. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency that oversees employment discrimination laws nationwide, recently sued a Manhattan apparel company over allegations that it fired an employee who required leave following childbirth. The EEOC is seeking back pay for the former employee and other damages.
According to a formal complaint filed in Manhattan federal court on July 10, the EEOC said the employee (whose name is withheld here) worked for the employer from 2013 to 2014. Her performance “was more than satisfactory,” according to the EEOC. Even after she became pregnant, an EEOC official said the employee “worked through her entire pregnancy, including the day she went into labor.”
Unfortunately, the employee experienced some complications and had to deliver her child by cesarean section. “Within days,” the EEOC alleged, the employer “made plans to replace her and assigned her primary job responsibilities to a less-qualified man.” When the employee subsequently attempted to return to work, she was allegedly told “her department had been moved to New Jersey,” and was fired.
The EEOC says this termination was illegal as it was a direct result of the employee's cesarean section, and not the purported reason that her department had been reorganized. In addition to monetary damages for the wrongfully terminated employee, the EEOC has asked a judge to issue a permanent injunction against the employer prohibiting any future acts of sex discrimination and to require the employer “institute and carry out policies, practices, and programs which provide equal opportunities regardless of sex.”
Have You Been the Victim of Pregnancy Discrimination?
Pregnancy discrimination is not limited to firing an employee due to childbirth complications. The law also bans any form of harassment related to an employee's pregnancy. Under certain conditions, such harassment may create a “hostile or offensive work environment.”
Beyond anti-discrimination laws, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) also requires many private employers to give employees who are new parents (whether by birth or adoption) up to 12 work weeks of leave during a 12-month period. New York and local laws may impose further obligations on employers with respect to pregnant employees.
If you have been a victim of any form of pregnancy discrimination, it is important to speak with an experienced New York employment law attorney as soon as possible. Contact the Law Offices of Mahir S. Nisar in New York City or Long Island today if you need immediate assistance with any kind of employment discrimination case.