EEOC Cracks Down on Pregnancy Discrimination

Apr 21 2014 - Discrimination, Workplace Policies - Gail Cecchettini Whaley

Recent actions from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) show that the agency is serious about its commitment to address pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.

Within the past 30 days alone, the EEOC announced that it reached settlements in four pregnancy discrimination lawsuits and that it filed a new pregnancy discrimination claim against an employer.

The settlements involved allegations of the following types of unlawful practices:

  • Rejecting a qualified applicant shortly after learning she was pregnant. According to the allegations, the company extended a job offer to the applicant through a staffing agency. Once the staffing agency informed the company’s president of the applicant’s pregnancy, her job offer was revoked and a non-pregnant applicant was hired instead.
  • Forcing a pregnant employee to take leave when she was able to work. According to the allegations, the employee had premature labor at 7 and one-half months, which her doctor was able to stop. When she returned from her doctor excused absence, her manager told her she would not be allowed to work until after the birth of her baby and she was placed on leave.  When the employee complained and indicated she intended to file a pregnancy discrimination charge, she was fired.
  • Refusing to hire an applicant as a group leader at Weight Watchers because of her pregnancy. The applicant was a lifetime Weight Watchers member. When Weight Watchers learned of her pregnancy, it told her that it did not hire pregnant women and refused to consider her any further for the position.
  • Firing an employee on her first day of work when the manager learned of her pregnancy. According to the allegations, the employee let her manager know she was pregnant on the day she started work and that same evening the manager fired her.  The manager replaced her with a non-pregnant employee.

One of the EEOC’s national priorities is “addressing emerging and developing issues,” including accommodating pregnancy-related limitations under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments and Pregnancy Discrimination Act. This priority was announced in the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan for Fiscal Years 2013-2016.

Gail Cecchettini Whaley, CalChamber Employment Law Counsel/Content

California also has strong protections against pregnancy discrimination. The HR Library’s Pregnancy Discrimination section describes these protections. Not a CalChamber member? Learn more about what HRCalifornia can do for you.

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