Terminating someone who is pregnant or who just gave birth can be dangerous. If you must fire her, make sure you can provide clear and consistent reasons.
Tell supervisors they should never make comments that sound as if the real reason is pregnancy.
Recent case: Michelle Terry worked for six years as her half-brother’s bookkeeper, managing the finances of three related small businesses in Florida. Then she became pregnant.
Shortly after she began, her brother terminated her. She asked him why she was being cut, and he offered numerous reasons, including a statement that she was a potential liability and that he had to cut payroll in order for the business to survive.
Terry focused on the liability statement and concluded she had been fired because she just had a Cesarean section. She sued, alleging Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) violations.and
Her brother then claimed the real reason he had fired her was because the books were a shambles.
Terry countered that she had told her brother many times that the company wasn’t paying its payroll and sales taxes on time and that she hadn’t been permitted to make the payments on her own.
The court didn’t like the brother’s shifting explanations, or the fact that he had replaced his sister with a man who had no experience. That cast doubt on at least one explanation—that Terry had been terminated to save money.
The court said both FMLA and PDA claims could go to trial because there was evidence that the company’s alleged legitimate reasons were a sham to cover upand deny Terry her right to take FMLA leave after giving birth. (Terry v. Real Talent, Inc., No. 8:09-CV-1756, MD FL, 2010)
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