Appeals court decision shows perils of pregnancy bias lawsuits

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in Human Resources,Maternity Leave Laws

by Lara C. de Leon, Esq., Ogletree Deakins, Orange County

A recent decision by the California Court of Appeal illustrates just how complicated and costly it can be to discipline an employee who is on protected leave.

In Alamo v. Practice Management Information Corp. (No. B230909, Court of Appeal of California, 2nd District, 2012), a for­mer employee who was fired after returning from maternity leave sued for pregnancy discrimination.

On appeal, the California Court of Appeal rejected the employer’s arguments that the trial court committed errors when it:

  • Instructed the jury that the em­­ployee had to prove her pregnancy-related leave was “a motivating reason” for her discharge
  • Refused to instruct the jury that the employer could avoid liability under a mixed-motive defense by proving it would have made the same termination decision even if no discriminatory or retaliatory motive existed.

While on leave, an argument

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