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Treat all pregnant employees equally, regardless of race or ethnicity

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in Discrimination and Harassment,FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources,Maternity Leave Laws

Attorneys seem intent on finding some form of discrimination in every adverse employment decision—and courts seem increasingly inclined to go along.

Consider this recent case, in which a pregnant black employee won the right to a jury trial on race and national-origin discrimination based on the allegation that a white pregnant employee was treated better.

Recent case: Marsha Bateman accepted a job as an administrator for a nonprofit agency. She became pregnant shortly after starting the job and developed complications.

That’s when the agency insisted she accept FMLA leave (even though she was not technically eligible). Bateman didn’t want to take FMLA leave, and instead wanted to use what vacation and sick time she had already earned. She had also worked long enough to qualify for limited disability insurance coverage, but wasn’t allowed to apply.

The agency terminated Bateman after she had been off work for 12 weeks. She sued, alleging that a white employee with pregnancy complications had been allowed to take much more time off without being terminated.

That, said the court, was evidence of race and national-origin discrimination. Plus, the court said the agency might have targeted Bateman for termination because it didn’t want to accommodate yet another pregnancy—and that might be pregnancy discrimination. A jury will now hear the case. (Bateman v. Project Hospitality, No. 07-CV-2085, ED NY, 2009)

Final note: Consistently follow your pregnancy leave rules. Making exceptions will get you in trouble.

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