This Week in Family Responsibilities Discrimination

Caregiver Discrimination, Family Responsibilities Discrimination, FMLA, Pregnancy Discrimination, Retaliation
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Despite the evidence that workplace support for families creates more satisfied and more loyal employees, many employers still feel that employees with family responsibilities are an inconvenience and respond by treating those employees unfairly or even firing them. This week, a number of pregnancy discrimination cases were discussed in the news. There was also a jury verdict, finding for the employer in a notable case against Merck, and some movement to retract family leave protections in Wisconsin. But it is not all bad news: this week, a bipartisan group of federal legislators introduced the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act!

New Cases

Ohio Patrol Officer Not Sworn in Because of Pregnancy, Suit Filed

In the Village of Anna, a woman was hired as a part-time police officer about two years ago. She completed a W-4, submitted to the pre-employment drug test, and was issued her badge, but on the day before her swearing in as an officer, she informed her supervisor that she was pregnant. Initially, the police chief said that the swearing in would be pushed back, to take place after the birth of the officer’s child. But after the baby was born, the officer’s calls were not answered or responded to and she was never sworn in. Essentially, her offer of employment was rescinded because she was pregnant. The officer filed suit in federal court, seeking injunctive relief, back and future pay and benefits, attorneys’ fees, and compensatory and punitive damages. Learn more about this case from the Dayton Daily News.

Suit Filed When Texas Waffle House Employee Fired for Pregnancy

After informing her Waffle House supervisor that she was pregnant, Tabitha Hardy received comments about being “pregnant again” and already having three children. Shortly thereafter, the manager-in-training began to be falsely accused of poor performance. She was fired soon after. Hardy is suing both for pregnancy discrimination and for defamation for the false statements about her performance. Read the whole story from NBC of Dallas.

The Washington Post Offers Advice to DC Employee Who Will Be Laid Off While on Maternity Leave

The general manager of the DC office of a global firm was informed that she will be laid off while she is on maternity leave. She wrote to The Washington Post’s Work Advice columnist Karla Miller about her dilemma. Miller, with the help of the Spiggle Law Firm’s Tom Spiggle, explains that the reader’s best first step is to find a lawyer. See all of her advice in this week’s column.

Poor Decisions

Jury Finds for Merck in Pregnancy Discrimination Case

A former Merck executive sued the pharmaceutical giant for sex and pregnancy discrimination when she was passed over for a promotion and then fired shortly after returning from maternity leave. However, this week, a jury, after hearing a four-week trial, sided with Merck and found that the company had legitimate reasons for not promoting the employee and for later terminating her employment. Learn more about this case from the New Jersey Law Review.

Wisconsin Employers Trying to Dismantle State Leave Laws in Favor of FMLA

In Wisconsin, like in almost every other state, there are two family leave laws: the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and the state family leave law. But, because the laws are not identical, employers argue that having two is confusing. So, Wisconsin employers are working to change the state law to make it mirror the FMLA. While this might make things less complicated—employers have managed with two laws since the implementation of the FMLA in 1993—it could have a serious negative impact on employees. The Wisconsin law provides for leave in cases that the FMLA does not. For example, it provides leave to more part-time employees and to employees caring for an in-law or a domestic partner. It also makes it a requirement that employers permit leave to be taken intermittently after the birth or adoption of a new child. Read more about the efforts from Channel 3000.

Hope for the Future

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (Re)Introduced

In exciting news for the future of family responsibilities discrimination protections, this week, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act was introduced by a bipartisan coalition of federal legislators. While the bill was introduced in 2012 and 2013 as well and failed, this is the first time that it has bipartisan support. The bill would ensure that pregnant workers are afforded reasonable accommodations in the workplace so they can keep working rather than being forced to take leave, as often happens now. The bill comes on the heels of the Supreme Court’s decision in Young v. UPS, which held that pregnant workers are only entitled to accommodations if the employer provides them for similarly disabled employees. Many are optimistic that the bill will pass now that it has bipartisan support. Learn more about the bill from the National Women’s Law Center.

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.