Category: Pregnancy Discrimination

pregnancy discrimination lawyers

“Can My Boss Fire Me Because I’m Pregnant?” and Other Pregnancy Discrimination Concerns

Kiyoko Rubio was assigned to the Hyatt House Hotel in February, 2016. She worked as a room attendant without incident until June of that year, when she was told she was being promoted to a supervisory role. Rubio states that “moments later”, she notified her supervisors that were present at the meeting that she was pregnant. Only six days later, she claims she was terminated. She filed a lawsuit in August of this year alleging pregnancy discrimination, and the case is still ongoing.

The scenario is one that occurs more than you would imagine, and also goes unreported more than you would imagine. A woman notifies her employers that she is pregnant, and suddenly she has “performance problems” that were never mentioned before. Perhaps she is placed on a Performance Improvement Plan or given write-ups for unsubstantial reasons. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, she is terminated.

There are other signs that suggest pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, which may include but are not limited to:

  • Failure of the employer to provide time or a location to pump breast milk
  • Failure to accommodate time off for doctor’s appointments
  • Sudden termination in proximity to taking/requesting maternity leave
  • Failure to honor work restrictions placed by a doctor

So why are the employers committing discrimination seeming to go unscathed for their actions? It typically comes down to a few main reasons.

Many Women Fear Retaliation and/or Lasting Career Damage

Those who are still employed fear termination, those who have already been terminated fear that their names will be dragged through the mud with prospective employers.

However, there are a few things to consider if you fall into this category. The first being that both parties in most cases make every effort to resolve the dispute before a lawsuit is filed, so there is no public record of the incident. The second thing to consider is that employers hate being sued just as much as employees hate having to initiate legal action – they have a reputation at risk as well and typically try to avoid negative publicity at all costs. Finally, retaliation for initiating a case could result in additional litigation against the employer.

The Misconception that “At-Will” Means You Have No Recourse

                While “at-will” employment leaves little room for wrongful termination in many common scenarios for disgruntled employees (i.e. the boss just didn’t like me for some reason), there are exemptions to this rule. Discrimination against a protected class (pregnancy included) would be one of them.

Being Discouraged by Lack of Direct Evidence (Proof)

                As with most types of discrimination lawsuits, pregnancy discrimination is rarely obvious. Sure, it’s possible for an employer to blatantly say that pregnant women don’t belong in the workplace. There are even some that may be foolish enough to put this in writing. But the reality is, 99.99% of cases do not have this component. Instead, attorneys work to prove the pregnancy discrimination using other case facts which arrive at the same conclusion. These facts may include your work/performance history prior to the pregnancy, disputing the phony reasoning for termination given by the employer, or showing that similarly situated employees have experienced the same scenario. One advantage to a pregnancy discrimination case over other types of discrimination is that it eliminates a challenging factor – pregnancy itself is not always obvious. While other traits can be apparent at the time of hire (such as race or gender), pregnancy is not always present or visible.
So, What Now?

The bottom line in all of this – treatment towards pregnant women in the workplace will never change without companies being held accountable. The only way that companies will be held accountable, is if people come forward and take a stand against this behavior. Start by documenting any negative behavior exhibited towards you after your pregnancy is made known – save emails, write down comments and who made them, ask for copies of write-ups or disciplinary actions. Then, present your information to an employment attorney, namely one that specializes in employment matters.

At Aegis Law Firm, we only represent employees against their employers, and specialize in certain case types within that scope. Pregnancy discrimination is one of them. Visit our pregnancy discrimination page to learn more

 

Sources:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/white-collar-women-dont-s_b_8100128.html

http://www.employmentlawdaily.com/index.php/news/recently-promoted-hotel-worker-who-lost-job-six-days-after-reporting-pregnancy-advances-suit/

http://hr.cch.com/ELD/RubioHyatt110817.pdf

pregnancy discrimination

Housing Non Profit Had “No Pregnancy” Policy

Shamira Johnson was a resource technician for the Houston based home and community services organization, United Bible. Johnson, who had always performed her job well, but was terminated suddenly for revealing she was pregnant.

Johnson and then the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleged that the non-profit organization had a “no pregnancy in the workplace” policy. Employees would became pregnant would not be permitted to continue their employment, nor would pregnant applicants be considered.

The organization, caught with such a policy, admitted that it had terminated Johnson on the basis on her pregnancy. It further admitted that Johnson was a good employee who did not have any issues with carrying out her job functions, other than being pregnant. With those admissions, an EEOC judge awarded Johnson $75,000 for back pay and damages. United Bible failed to prove why pregnant women could not sufficiently and safely perform the functions of a resource technician.

In California, pregnant women and their ability to take leave are protected. If you have experienced discrimination based on pregnancy, give our Aegis attorneys a call.

Source: National Law Review

Robbed at Gunpoint, Pregnant, and Not Getting Paid Properly

A manager of a Houston Popeye’s was terminated by the franchise owner for getting robbed at gunpoint. The manager, Marissa Holcomb, was working her shift when a masked gunman jumped the counter, forcefully knocked another employee to the ground, and held Holcomb at gunpoint, demanding money.

Holcomb handed over $400 cash. The gunman promptly fled after receiving the money. The restaurant owner, Amin Dhanani, was not happy about the incident. He alleged it was Holcomb’s fault that much money was taken because she had failed to follow company policy and kept too much money in the cash register. Holcomb responded by saying the restaurant was too busy to allow the transition to take place.  The owner gave her choice—be fired or pay the money back. Dhanani fired Holcomb three days later, stating it was not her first offense.

Holcomb is pregnant with her 4th child. “I just had a gun to me. I’m not paying the money.” Not too long after, Dhanani realized his mistake—he had just terminated a pregnant woman after she was robbed at gunpoint.

Dhanani offered Holcomb her job back, but she refused, even after he graciously threw in another $2,000 for back pay (so that meant she wasn’t getting paid right either). She wanted to move on from a place that would do things like terminate employees after a robbery.

Source: Grub Street

April 14th is Equal Pay Day

Today is a symbolic day for those who continue to fight for equal pay. Women typically earn $.78 to a man’s $1.00. April 14th marks the time of year when women catch up to men’s salaries from the previous calendar year. Why is that? There are plenty of answers: hours worked, discrimination in the workplace, job choice, etc. We analyze some of these issues below.

Blatant gender discrimination and objectification is not as relevant these days as it was five or six decades ago, however, there are still road blocks to a woman’s success in the employment force. Though women are more likely to go to college than men, some “traditional” concerns still make it difficult for a woman to get passed the same obstacles from the ‘50s and 60s. For example, no matter how educated a woman is, if she decides to have children while pursuing her career, it is to her detriment that a company lacks ample maternity leave or help for childcare.

However, there are always two sides to every story. There are ways women can take the initiative to help narrow the gender wage gap, as well. Statistically, women don’t ask for raises or higher job salaries upon being offered the job like men do. According to a survey conducted by LinkedIn, only 27% of women asked for a raise during a year period as opposed to 84% of men. Some, though not all, of the gender gap can be explained and solved if women took the money on the table just by asking for it.

There is no easy or simple fix to the wage gender gap. However, both sides need to work together to make it possible for Equal Pay Day’s objective come true.

Source: Wall Street Journal and Washington Post

FMLA, Retaliation, and Lawsuits

Ronald Rice was excited to share the news of his wife’s pregnancy with his co-workers and employer in January 2012. Within days of his announcement, however, his work relationship turned sour.

Suddenly, Rice was assigned a multitude of extra duties that were outside his job description. He endured the extra workload for six months until his wife’s pregnancy took a difficult turn. In order to take care of his wife who now had more doctor’s appointments to attend and had severe morning sickness, Rice requested to take five days of vacation time. Two of those days were denied, so Rice put in an FMLA request for those days, three days after his vacation request. The employer swiftly terminated Rice.

Rice then sued the company for interfering with his FMLA rights. The district court decided that there was enough evidence to conclude that the employer had terminated Rice due to his association with his pregnant wife and discriminated against him for trying to take an FMLA leave. The employer’s defense hinged on the testimony of managers who claimed the executor of the termination was not aware of Rice’s request. The court, however, found that there was no plan to terminate Rice previous to his FMLA request, and therefore concluded that the sole reason for termination was borne out of retaliation.

Source: Rice v. Kellermeyer Co. (Ohio 2014)