Some employees think that if they are pregnant, they can’t be fired. While it’s true that firing someone because they are pregnant is illegal, it doesn’t follow that every discharge involving a mother-to-be is discrimination.
Be prepared to show legitimate, nonpregnancy-related reasons for your action and you should survive a lawsuit.
Recent case: Melinda Riddick was a supervisor who took several weeks off during a difficult pregnancy.
Before she announced that she was pregnant, she was already being criticized for poor work. Then, while she was gone, subordinates toldthat they sometimes went weeks without work and that Riddick was difficult to deal with. Plus, managers discovered additional work errors in her absence.
Riddick was fired. She sued, alleging.
She lost because she couldn’t show the termination was related to her pregnancy, given the obvious work problems managers had documented before and during her absence. (Riddick v. MAIC, No. 10-2396, 4th Cir., 2011)
Final note: Make sure all managers and supervisors understand what to do when a woman announces a pregnancy. The only appropriate response is “Congratulations!” They should never comment on how many children she has or ask whether she will return to work. Assume she will continue to work at full capacity until she indicates otherwise.
They should refer all questions about leave to HR. That includes questions about prenatal-care leave and requests for accommodations related to temporary medical restrictions.
- How to Fire an Employee the Legal Way: 6 Termination Guidelines
- Beware individual liability under FMLA and CEPA
- Choose your words carefully to avoid 'accidental contracts'
- Supreme Court follows Ledbetter logic in AT&T pregnancy discrimination case
- FMLA, FLSA, ADA and more: The 10 employment laws every manager must know