The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has been busy working on its new pet project: pregnancy discrimination. And legislative proposals before Congress would give pregnant workers new rights to ask for workplace accommodations.
The proof? In September alone, the agency sued three employers for allegedly discriminating against expectant mothers — and settled a similar case for $30,000.
A quick look at the cases:
Chemcore Industries, a Georgia-based plumbing supply firm, agreed to the $30k settlement after the EEOC charged that Chemcore fired customer service rep Marie Simmons just hours after she disclosed her pregnancy to her supervisor.
The EEOC filed suit against Quest Intelligence Group, a California security services firm, charging that the employer unlawfully refused to restate a woman who was returning from maternity leave.
According to the EEOC, when security guard Tabitha Feeney contacted Quest to schedule her return to work after taking leave to have a baby, she was told that there was no work for her and that she would be called if work became available.
That call never came. But, the EEOC alleged, Quest advertised openings for security guard positions and hired several males within weeks of Feeney’s request to return to work.
Written policy unlawful, agency charges
Bayou City Wings, a restaurant chain in Texas, was sued by the EEOC on account of its written policy that pregnant workers were required to be laid off after the third month of their pregnancies.
Agency officials said Maryann Castillo and other female workers were laid off on account of the policy, which was set out in Bayou City Wings’ employee handbook. Castillo was fired in spite of the fact she had provided a doctor’s note that indicated she could work up to the 36th week of her pregnancy. Her doctor had not placed any restrictions on her ability to work.
During the EEOC’s investigation of the bias claim filed by Castillo, Bayou City Wings named eight female employees who were laid off from work because of their pregnancies.
Another restaurant, J’s Seafood of Panama City, FL, was the subject of another EEOC lawsuit, this one alleging that the employer had illegally discharged two servers because they were pregnant.
Agency spokesmen said the servers were fired because their pregnancies caused them to be a liability to the company.
Bill would call for new accommodations
All this comes at the same time the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (S.3565) has come before the Senate.
The PWFA, modeled on the Americans with Disabilities Act, would require reasonable workplace accommodations for workers whose ability to perform the functions of a job are limited by pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.
A similar bill (H.R.5647) has been introduced in the House.