Pregnant Texas employees are protected from discrimination under the Texas Commission of Human Rights Act (TCHRA). The TCHRA prohibits sex discrimination and makes it an “unlawful employment practice if because of … sex … the employer discharges an individual.” It also defines sex discrimination to include “discrimination because of or on the basis of pregnancy.”
Employers must make sure pregnant employees are treated fairly and not singled out because of pregnancy.
That means never commenting about difficulties the organization had because an employee is pregnant. A few ill-timed comments can mean back pay, plus punitive damages for the employer’s failure to make a good-faith effort to prevent .
Recent case: When Mariluz Arismendez became pregnant with her third child, she almost immediately started having pregnancy-related complications. Her doctor ordered bed rest, and Arismendez’s husband brought the note to her employer. When two weeks wasn’t long enough, the doctor extended it and the husband again hand-delivered the note. However, this time Arismendez’s boss refused to accept it. Instead, she arranged for the expectant mother to be fired for job abandonment.
As if that weren’t bad enough, the boss also told Arismendez that she knew it was illegal to fire her because she was pregnant, but she was doing it anyway because she had “a business to run” and “could not take having a pregnant woman in the office.”
It should come as no surprise that the jury awarded Arismendez back pay plus punitive damages. She will receive $36,150 in back pay and for pain and suffering—plus $200,000 in punitive damages. (Arismendez v. Nightingale Home Health Care, No. 06-40593, 5th Cir., 2007)
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