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‘Anti-Mom’ comments can trigger messy discrimination lawsuits

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Hiring,Human Resources,Maternity Leave Laws

It’s not only illegal to discriminate against females in the work force, it’s also illegal to show bias against certain subsets of women. While the most common form of sex discrimination may be a preference for hiring and promoting males, it’s also illegal to favor women who don’t have children or who have older children (as opposed to kids who need child care).

When training employees on discrimination, remind them that “anti-mom” discrimination is real and can be an expensive mistake.

Recent case: When Angela Timothy’s job duties at Our Lady of Mercy Medical Center changed after she returned from maternity leave, she jumped to the immediate conclusion that the reason was discrimination because she had children.

Her evidence: Two comments made by the new CEO. First, he asked Timothy how many children she had and their ages. Next, he asked another woman whether she thought she could work full-time with young children at home.

Timothy sued. Fortunately, the medical center was able to show that reorganization—not discrimination—was the reason her job duties changed. Plus, the second woman was promoted and got a raise despite the CEO’s comment. The court dismissed the case. (Timothy v. Our Lady of Mercy Medical Center, No. 06-0081-CV, 2nd Cir., 2007)

While this employer won, a few misplaced comments forced it to spend lots of money on a legal defense.

Final note: Although you can’t ask female applicants if they have children, you can ask reasonable job-based questions about their availability for overtime and scheduling.  

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