You Just Lost Your Job Because You’re Pregnant

Pregnancy Discrimination, Retaliation
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In most work settings, letting your boss know that you are pregnant usually elicits congratulatory remarks and efforts to help make the pregnancy as easy and wonderful as possible. But for two women, becoming pregnant recently caused the termination of their employment. Here are their stories.

Employee #1: Taylor King

Nick’s Sports Grill is chain of restaurants in Texas that offers a pleasant, family-friendly atmosphere for its patrons to enjoy a drink, meal, and/or game. But for Taylor King, her experience working was anything but accommodating to families.

Nick’s hired King to work as a bartender in September 2012. About a year later, King told her boss that she was pregnant but would still be able to continue working.

Nick’s seemed to be agreeable to King’s pregnancy until the moment she mentioned that she would need a few weeks off to give birth to her child. Approximately one month after telling Nick’s that she would need time off, Nick’s fired King.

Employee #2: Kendra Taylor-Andrews

terminationKendra Taylor-Andrews worked for the law firm Wayne Wright LLP and did an excellent job. Between 2004 and 2011, Taylor-Andrews served as a case manager, receiving annual performance evaluations that were always satisfactory or “exceptional.” Not once during those seven years did Taylor-Andrews receive an “unsatisfactory” annual review.

Everything changed in 2011, when Taylor-Andrews told her law firm that she was pregnant. About one month after informing her firm that she was pregnant, Taylor-Andrews received a letter from its human resources director stating that Taylor-Andrews was not entitled to a leave of absence to deliver her baby. The letter also asked when her last day at work would be.

Taylor-Andrews informed her firm that she did not intend to resign. Rather, she just planned to take some time off from work when the baby arrived. The firm responded by placing Taylor-Andrews on a performance improvement plan, then officially firing her a few days later.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Gets Involved

After they were fired, both King and Taylor-Andrews filed complaints with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC). The EEOC investigated both complaints and found reasonable cause to believe that pregnancy discrimination had taken place.

Once the charges were filed, Taylor-Andrews had the added problem of having to deal with retaliation when the firm initiated a declaratory judgment action against her. Retaliation occurs when an employer takes action against an employee because he or she engaged in a legally protected action.

In the case of Taylor-Andrews, she was legally allowed to complain to the EEOC about the alleged pregnancy discrimination that she had encountered. Therefore, any adverse action by the law firm, such as suing Taylor-Andrews, would likely be considered retaliation.

King did not have to deal with retaliation after getting the EEOC involved, but the EEOC was unable to negotiate a settlement between her and Nick’s.

The Current Status of King and Taylor-Andrews’ Cases

pregnancy4Luckily for Taylor-Andrews, her case has been resolved. The EEOC sued the law firm on her behalf. In less than a month, both sides settled the case. Her firm agreed to pay Taylor-Andrews $60,000 for punitive damages and compensatory damages, including back wages.

The law firm also agreed to stop engaging in discriminatory behavior and educate its employees about pregnancy discrimination issues through posted notices and training sessions.

As for King, her legal battles are still ongoing. However, the EEOC has recently sued Nick’s on behalf of King, just like it did for Taylor-Andrews.

A Final Note about the EEOC’s Lawsuits Against Employers

King’s and Taylor-Andrews’s situations are not the norm. Most complaints lodged with the EEOC do not result in the EEOC suing an employer, let alone a legal settlement for the employee. The EEOC is very selective in the cases it decides to pursue. However, it is no coincidence that the EEOC took these two pregnancy discrimination cases that happened to be especially egregious.

For more information about the EEOC complaint process, check out the EEOC’s “Filing a Charge of Discrimination” webpage and our blog titled “How Long Should It Take for the EEOC to Investigate My Complaint?”

Summing It Up

  • One of the first things employees should do if they believe they have been discriminated against is to file a complaint (also known as a charge) with the EEOC.
  • The EEOC will investigate the claim of discrimination and, in limited instances, will sue the employer on behalf of the employee.
  • The EEOC does not take many cases, but the ones it does take are often the more blatant instances of workplace discrimination.