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Beware: PDA protection doesn’t end with birth

by on
in Human Resources,Maternity Leave Laws

Pregnant women have special protection from discrimination under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). But many employers don’t realize that PDA protections continue for a period of time after the pregnancy ends.

Essentially, anytime you terminate an employee who has recently been pregnant, you risk a PDA lawsuit.

Recent case: Alicia Briggs worked for Women in Need, a nonprofit organization. When she became pregnant, she informed her em­­ployer. A few months later, she had to take medical leave for complications. She eventually gave birth to a daughter by Caesarian section. Because Women in Need had a disability plan, she was able to take 26 weeks of leave, including six weeks following surgery.

While she was off, she stayed in frequent contact with HR. Briggs alleged she was promised that she would be able to work her preferred day shift when she returned from leave. Her doctor gave her a return date, which she passed along to HR. That’s when she discovered that she would not get her preferred shift—and that, in fact, she would have no job to return to.

A few weeks later, the nonprofit did offer her the job back. But by then, Briggs had already found a new job. She rejected the offer and sued.

Now the court has said her PDA case should go forward, despite the fact that she was not terminated during her pregnancy, but more than six weeks later.

The court explained that the PDA protects women from dis­­crimination both during pregnancy and for a time after. There is no bright line at which pro­tection ends. Instead, the court explained, each case must be eval­­uated on its individual facts. (Briggs v. Women in Need, 10-CV-2265, ED NY, 2011)

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