BUSINESS LAW: Pregnancy claim will be heard

2013-07-27T10:28:00Z BUSINESS LAW: Pregnancy claim will be heardJames L. Jorgensen Times Business Columnist
July 27, 2013 10:28 am  • 

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination based on “pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions.”

The PDA is a discrimination statute only. It doesn’t require employers to treat pregnant employees more favorably than non-pregnant employees. Rather, the PDA prohibits employers from treating pregnant employees less favorably than it treats non-pregnant employees.

Consider these facts taken from a very unusual case. An employee was hired by a home-health-care agency. Her job was to assess new clients and to then determine their needs.

The employee became pregnant and informed her supervisor. The supervisor asked her whether she was going to quit her job after the baby was born. The supervisor also made derogatory remarks about how another child would distract the employee from doing her job. The supervisor even suggested that the employee obtain an abortion.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, the supervisor increased the now pregnant employee’s workload. Finally, a macabre incident occurred.

The employee visited the home of a 100-year-old woman for a needs assessment. The woman’s son provided the information, but would not let the employee see his mother.

The employee was able to look into the mother’s room. The mother was in bed, but did not show any signs of breathing or movement.

The employee returned to the office and told her supervisor that she was concerned that the mother was dying or had died. The supervisor told her to complete and submit the assessment report. As it turned out, the mother had died three days earlier.

The pregnant employee was fired for having filed a “wrong assessment report on an expired client." The employer claimed the employee also endangered the life of the mother, even though she had been dead for days before the employee first saw her.

The pregnant employee sued under the PDA, and a jury will hear the case. This is considerable evidence of an anti-pregnancy bias. The supervisor’s comments were completely inappropriate. The employer’s reasons for the firing made no sense and could be easily challenged as being a pretext for discrimination.

Opinions are solely the writer's. James Jorgensen practices law at Hoeppner Wagner & Evans in Valparaiso.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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