Previous pregnancy troubles are no reason to refuse hiring, rehiring

by on
in Hiring,Human Resources,Maternity Leave Laws

Remind your managers: Contrary to popular belief, female employees don't need to be pregnant to earn legal protections under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). Even nonpregnant employees can sue.

Instruct supervisors about the PDA's broad reach. Explain that you can't refuse a job or a promotion to a female employee simply because of her potential to become pregnant. It's your responsibility to manage schedule changes due to an employee's pregnancy, just as you would for any employee who has a temporary disability.

Recent case: Nurse Suzanne Kocak resigned after suffering medical complications from pregnancy. After she recovered, she twice reapplied for open positions but wasn't rehired.

Kocak filed a PDA lawsuit, claiming the company didn't rehire her because it feared a repeat of previous scheduling problems if she became pregnant again. As evidence, Kocak said a supervisor asked during her rehire interview whether she planned to have more children.

The company argued that Kocak shouldn't be protected under PDA because she wasn't pregnant at the time she was rejected for the job. A lower court bought that argument and sided with the company.

But a federal appeals court took issue with that reasoning, saying it didn't matter whether she was pregnant at the time of the lawsuit because the PDA also bans discrimination against a woman because of her "capacity to become pregnant." (Kocak v. Community Health Partners of Ohio, No. 03-4650, 6th Cir., 2005)

Final tip: Remind hiring managers that asking female applicants (or female employees) anything about their childbirth plans is a major legal "no no."

Leave a Comment