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OK to terminate pregnant employee sometimes; the PDA merely requires equal treatment

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training,Maternity Leave Laws,Office Management,Payroll Management

Some employees believe the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) makes it illegal to discharge a pregnant woman for any reason related to the pregnancy. That’s not quite true.

The PDA merely requires employers to treat pregnant women no differently than other employees. As the following case shows, that may mean discharge for complications associated with pregnancy—under the right circumstances.

Recent case: Shortly after Lynn Kucharski went to work for CORT Furniture Rental, she developed complications due to pregnancy. Since she hadn’t worked for the company for at least one year, she wasn’t eligible for unpaid FMLA leave.

She was, however, eligible for four weeks off with pay under the company’s sick leave policy for new employees. She took those four weeks, but then could not return to work. CORT discharged her.

Kucharski sued, alleging that she had been discriminated against because she was pregnant.

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers New York employers, threw out her claim. It explained that she got the same paid time off any other employee who needed sick leave would have received—no more and no less. That’s all the PDA requires, concluded the court. (Kucharski v. CORT Furniture Rental, No. 08-4037, 2nd Cir., 2009)

Final note:
If the company didn’t provide any leave for illness, she could have been terminated immediately. The law merely requires employers to treat pregnant employees equally. Of course, make sure you check FMLA eligibility and that the employee isn’t disabled under the ADA.

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