This Week in Family Responsibilities Discrimination

Caregiver Discrimination, Pregnancy Discrimination
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Here is a look at a few interesting stories in family responsibilities discrimination across the country this week.

Pregnancy Discrimination

Las Vegas Company Settles Pregnancy Charge

This week, ACR Mechanical agreed to settle an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charge of pregnancy discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 toward one of its dispatchers. The employee claimed that she was harassed and then fired because she was pregnant. The EEOC found reasonable cause for her claim and pursued a formal charge against the company in December 2014. Without admitting liability, ACR Mechanical agreed to pay the employee $10,000, as well as post notices and provide training for its employees, in exchange for the employee and the EEOC dropping the charge. You can read more about the story here.

A Note on the EEOC

The EEOC is the enforcement agency for all federal employment discrimination laws. These laws include Title VII, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA), and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA). Charges of discrimination are filed with the EEOC in DC or one of its 53 field offices. In the Las Vegas case, the EEOC was able to facilitate a mediation between ACR Mechanical and the employee.

North Carolina Police Officer Is Filing Suit for Pregnancy Discrimination

In North Carolina, a former police officer, Erin Bray, filed suit for pregnancy and disability discrimination for her termination from the Wake Forest Police Department in 2013. Bray was fired for her alleged inability to perform her job shortly after requesting accommodations at work due to doctor’s orders related to her pregnancy. Importantly, in this police department, “light duty” assignments were routinely provided for employees who were hurt on the job. Because she was treated differently than those employees who did receive accommodations in the workplace, Bray asserts that she was illegally discriminated against based on her pregnancy and related disability. Learn more about her story here.

A Note on Accommodations in Pregnancy

It is common, even with very straightforward pregnancies, for pregnant workers to need some accommodations. Recently, in Young v. UPS, the Supreme Court clarified when employers need to provide these accommodations—like light duty, a chair, and bathroom breaks—under Title VII and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. When the same types of accommodations would be made for non-pregnant workers who needed them, the employer must provide them to pregnant workers too. In the Wake Forest case, the question is whether employees injured on the job are a close enough comparison to pregnant workers to warrant the same accommodation of light duty under the law.

Family Leave

West Virginia Supermarket’s FMLA Discrimination Case Moved to Federal Court

A West Virginia Kroger employee has sued his employer for interference with and retaliation for asserting his Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) rights. The night stock crew member notified Kroger that his wife was pregnant and was experiencing some complications with the pregnancy and informed Kroger that he need to take leave to care for her. Kroger failed to provide any documentation about FMLA leave. The employee took some time to assist his wife, and, only a couple of months later, his employment was terminated. This case was filed in state court, and Kroger has requested to move it to federal court. Read more about the story here.

A Note on the FMLA

The FMLA provides for 12 weeks of unpaid leave to recuperate from your own illness, to care for an ill family member, or to care for a new child when the employee works in an FMLA-covered workplace. But employers also have a responsibility to inform their employees about their rights under the FMLA, including about their eligibility. In fact, the EEOC has outlined that employers have five business days from when an employee requests leave to provide a statement of leave eligibility. This is the duty that the Kroger employee is claiming was violated in his case.

Connecticut Still Considering Paid Leave Law

While the legislative session is wrapping up in Connecticut, lawmakers continue to work to vote on a bill that would provide employees paid leave to care for themselves or for ill family members or to care for a new child. Additionally, the law would lower the threshold number of employees necessary for protection under the Connecticut family leave law from 75 to just two. It also would expand the definition of family member to include grandparents, grandchildren, and siblings. Learn about the details of the law here.

A Note on Paid Leave Laws

To date, only three states in the entire country provide some paid family leave: California, Rhode Island, and New Jersey. The United States is the only industrialized country to not provide some paid leave to parents after the birth of a child. Some countries provide modest paid leave, like Saudi Arabia, which provides 70 days at 50% of regular pay; others provide extensive paid leave. For example, the United Kingdom offers 280 days of leave at a 90% pay level for the first 6 weeks and then a flat rate for the remaining time; Italy provides 140 days of 100% paid leave. Recognizing this significant shortcoming in the American workplace, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D – Conn.) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D – N.Y.) are sponsoring the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (the FAMILY Act) in Congress.

If you think you’ve been the victim of discrimination, sexual harassment, or retaliation, contact our office so we can talk about how you’ve been treated, the applicable laws, and your legal options.