We‘ve said it a lot: “The day is over when an employer could force a pregnant woman out of her job because of stereotypical, unsupported beliefs about her abilities. A company cannot take it upon itself to remove an employee from her job because it suspects her pregnancy or a pregnancy-related medical condition may interfere with the performance of her duties.”
Actually, we have said it a lot, but the quote above is from the EEOC, which just settled a case of pregnancy and disability discrimination against a Texas summer camping and retreats company for $70,000.
In 2015 I did a post called “The ADA: No Employment Decisions Based Upon Fears, Myths and Stereotypes.” And I repeated my oft-mentioned caution to employers not to discriminate against employees purporting to use concerns about their health or safety. Such decisions better not be based upon outdated fears, myths or stereotypes!
In the instant case, it was alleged that the executive director demoted the registrar when she became pregnant and developed gestational diabetes, stating that the job was “too demanding” for her because of her pregnancy and related medical condition.
Significantly, she never said that she could not perform her job duties, nor did she request a job reassignment.
Compounding this, it was alleged that the company fired her after she complained that her demotion was illegal, in addition to suing her.
An EEOC regional attorney said that “Demoting a pregnant employee because of a belief that a pregnancy-related condition prevents her from performing her job duties is illegal, as is firing the employee for complaining that the demotion is discriminatory.”
I recall a PDA case a couple of years ago about an employer who fired a housekeeper after learning that she was pregnant, contending that “it could not allow her to continue to work as a housekeeper because of the potential harm to the development of her baby.”
An EEOC attorney said that “Employers may not bar pregnant employees from work because of outdated myths or stereotypes.”
Well, it didn’t take long for the EEOC to announce the settlement of a similar PDA case. A Texas-area donut franchise allegedly forced an employee into unpaid leave when it’s owner/general manager “received information that [she] might be pregnant.” The EEOC claimed that the owner refused to permit her to work “unless she provided a doctor’s release indicating that her pregnancy was not ‘high-risk’” (PDA violation) and then fired her when she complained about this (retaliation).
For this, the company had to pay $45,000 in settlement.
The EEOC’s press release stated that: “Under the PDA, an employer cannot force a pregnant employee, or one the employer suspects of being pregnant, to provide medical documentation proving that the employee can continue working, unless the employee requests some pregnancy-related accommodation. Further, if an employee complains about pregnancy discrimination, the employer must investigate that complaint and must not take any retaliatory employment action against her.”
And an EEOC attorney said that “An employer that imposes its own personal beliefs and concerns about an employee’s pregnancy on her violates federal law and invites legal action.”
Takeaway: As I said in my prior posts, the EEOC is still targeting baseless fears, outdated myths and stereotypes.