Pregnancy discrimination is a growing issue in today’s workplace, and employers are bending over backwards to stay away from any hint of bias. But a recent court decision indicates that mentioning a women’s pregnancy in relation to her firing doesn’t necessarily indicate discrimination.
The case involves Cynthia Anderson, who worked as a sales associate in a store in Kansas. About two months into her employment, she discovered she was pregnant.
Complications ensued, and her doctor prescribed bed rest. Because she hadn’t been on the job long enough to qualify for Family and Medical Leave Act leave, the company decided to terminate her.
On her termination paperwork, her supervisor wrote that Anderson was “having complications with her pregnancy. Will return to be rehired in a few weeks.” The manager also checked the “Yes” box under the form’s heading “Recommendation for Rehire.”
Later, Anderson asked store officials to draft a letter explaining the circumstances of her firing, in order for Anderson to get unemployment and health coverage. In the letter, the store manager wrote that Anderson was terminated “due to pregnancy-related illnesses. Cynthia needed three weeks off for bed rest required by a doctor.”
The manager added that according to company policy, any employee who needed more than seven days off but hadn’t been on the job for a year had to be “released.”
Anderson sued under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. But the judge wasn’t buying her bias claim.
The comments made in both her company paperwork and her application for unemployment were merely descriptive of Anderson’s circumstances, the judge ruled. They weren’t indications of bias against her on account of the fact she was pregnant.
The takeaway? Employers don’t always have to tiptoe around the issue of mentioning the fact of an employee’s pregnancy. Indeed, there are circumstances where that fact has to be revealed in order to present an accurate picture of a personnel move.
Cite: Anderson v. The Cato Corporation. For a look at the full decision, go here.