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Warn bosses: Keep concerns to yourself if employee’s pregnancy doesn’t fit project schedule

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in Human Resources,Maternity Leave Laws

In tough times like these, employees are being asked to do more with less. Temporarily losing a worker to pregnancy, childbirth and maternity leave can create scheduling havoc.

That doesn’t mean, however, that supervisors can let their irritation show. Any comment on the pregnancy should be supportive and consist of little more than hearty congratulations. Anything more may spell a lawsuit.

Recent case: Jeannine DuChateau worked successfully for years at Camp Dresser & McKee (CDM), where she was often assigned to the company’s Lockheed Martin account. When CDM landed a Lockheed Martin contract to make the company more “green,” DuChateau was picked to lead the project.

Then she announced her pregnancy, explaining she would be taking a few months of maternity leave around the same time that the green project was scheduled to reach its busiest time. Shortly after, she overheard CDM’s Lockheed Martin client relationship manager tell another manager that DuChateau was “irresponsible” for getting pregnant when she was supposed to be managing the green project and lamenting that she wouldn’t be following through. That manager then took control of the green project, even though DuChateau was still technically in charge.

She sued, alleging pregnancy discrimination.

The court said her case could go to trial, based largely on the “irresponsible” comment. That, plus the manager’s de facto assumption of DuChateau’s duties could lead a jury to conclude she was punished for becoming pregnant. (DuChateau v. Camp, Dresser & McKee, No. 10-60712, SD FL, 2011)

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