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Collective bargaining terms mean no unemployment comp for pregnant employees

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employee Benefits Program,Human Resources,Maternity Leave Laws

Employees who must stop working at a certain point in their pregnancies because a union agreement compels the leave are not entitled to unemployment compensation in Ohio. That’s true even if the pregnant employee could physically work and would have done so if it were an option.

Recent case: April Peters worked as a flight attendant for Continental Airlines when she became pregnant. The union contract specified that flight attendants who had reached their 27th week of pregnancy couldn’t fly.

Peters filed for unemployment, contending that she was perfectly capable of working and therefore had lost her job through no fault of her own. But benefits were denied after the court concluded Peters had agreed to the terms of the union contract, and therefore waived her right to benefits under the Ohio unemployment compensation law. (Continental Airlines v. Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, No. 88698, Court of Appeals of Ohio, 8th Appellate Division, 2007)

Final note: The court was troubled by the union contract language and went as far as to suggest that the “no-fly” rule might violate the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act or Ohio discrimination laws. But neither of those laws was at issue in this unemployment compensation case.

The court also concluded that without a union contract, pregnant employees who aren’t allowed to work might be eligible for unemployment benefits. Plus, it’s quite possible that special rules for when pregnant women can work constitute sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Before telling expectant mothers to go home, consider the ramifications and consult with an attorney.

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