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Victory by EEOC is Example of Increase in Pregnancy Discrimination

The EEOC recently announced that a federal judge awarded a default judgment of $148,000 against a Milwaukee based medical staffing firm, based upon allegations by the firm’s former bookkeeper that she was subjected to pregnancy discrimination.  The EEOC’s suit alleged that the owner of HCS Medical Staffing, Inc. discriminated against Roxy Leger when he made offensive comments about her pregnancy and fired her because she needed to take maternity leave following the birth of her child.  In entering the default judgment the federal judge stated that the “circumstances leading up to HCS’s discriminatory termination of Leger were inherently humiliating and caused Leger substantial emotional distress.  The circumstances surrounding Leger's notification of termination were equally degrading.”  According to the EEOC, the judge summarized the alleged pregnancy discrimination, and found that HCS’s owner referred to Leger’s pregnancy as a joke; insisted that maternity leave last no more than a couple of days; suggested that Leger’s pre-natal appointments were a ruse for additional time off or for money; and gave Leger an offensive graphic diagram of a machine which would allegedly allow Leger to return from her maternity leave sooner.  With no prior warning or discipline, HCS terminated Leger’s employment and stopped her health insurance coverage while she was still in the hospital recovering from a Caesarean section.  Leger learned of her termination days later by certified mail. The EEOC’s victory on behalf of Ms. Leger is an exciting resolution of a compelling case, but unfortunately Ms. Leger is not the only woman who has suffered harassment or discrimination as a result of being pregnant.  In this rough economic climate, an increasing number of women who are expecting are continuing to work through their pregnancy.  This presence of pregnant employees has brought to light many instances of harassing or discriminatory conduct by employers.  Generally, pregnancy discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which precludes discrimination based on pregnancy when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, such as leave and health insurance, and any other term or condition of employment.  Additionally, pregnancy caused impairments, such as gestational diabetes or preeclampsia, may be disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodations such as leave or work modifications.  Moreover, under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a new parent may be eligible for 12 weeks of leave to care for the new child. If you believe that your employer is harassing or discriminating against you because of your pregnancy, or the effects of your pregnancy, give Clayton Wire of Ogborn Mihm LLP a call to discuss your potential claims.
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