Even under the best of conditions, it is a challenge for pregnant women to succeed in the workplace. Many employers remain wedded to outdated notions of what pregnant workers can and can not do. Fortunately, federal law–specifically, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA)–protects women from disparate treatment on the basis of their pregnancy. Not only does the PDA forbid an employer from firing an employee who becomes pregnant, the company must also grant any “reasonable accommodation” necessary to help her do her job in spite of any pregnancy-related complications.
Executive Alleges Company Refused Accommodation for “High-Risk” Pregnancy
Despite the PDA's clear requirements, we continue to see a number of lawsuits against high-profile employers who are accused of mistreating pregnant workers. One such case recently filed here in Manhattan involves, ironically, one of the nation's largest sellers of women's cosmetics, Avon. On October 3, 2018, a former Avon executive sued the brand's parent company–New Avon LLC–and her former supervisor, claiming she was fired just weeks into her job after disclosing her pregnancy.
According to the plaintiff's complaint, she was “recruited aggressively” to join Avon earlier this year as its global head of North America indirect procurement. Three weeks into her position, the plaintiff went to the hospital after experiencing “heaving bleeding.” Doctors informed the plaintiff she was pregnant. Not only that, but hers was a “high-risk” pregnancy with an “exceedingly high” chance of ending in miscarriage.
On her doctor's advice, the plaintiff requested and received paid-time off from work. But after returning to the office, the plaintiff “continued to experience pain and bleeding related to her pregnancy.” The plaintiff then spoke with Avon's human resources department. She asked for permission to work remotely from home due to her pregnancy-related complications. The next day, the plaintiff said Avon officials confronted her with “sham performance issues” and denied her request to work remotely. A few days later, she was fired, ostensibly because of “performance deficiencies.”
The plaintiff alleges that she was, in fact, fired solely due to her pregnancy, in strict violation of the PDA, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and New York State and New York City human rights laws. She maintains that not only was Avon unjustified in firing her, they also had no reason to deny her request to work remotely while on medical bed rest for her high-risk pregnancy. Indeed, the plaintiff noted that many Avon executives–including her former supervisor–worked remotely all the time without negatively affecting the company.
The plaintiff's lawsuit remains pending before Manhattan federal court. In a statement to the media, Avon denied the plaintiff's allegations.
Contact a New York City Pregnancy Discrimination Lawyer Today
Pregnancy discrimination is a serious problem that affects far too many women in New York City. If you have been fired or mistreated at work because of your pregnancy, you need to speak with a qualified New York employment law attorney to learn more about your legal rights. Contact the Law Offices of White, Nisar & Hilferty, LLP, if you need help right away.