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Tell supervisors: No pregnancy comments allowed

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in Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Maternity Leave Laws,Performance Reviews

It seems simple enough: No one should make cracks or comments about an employee’s pregnancy. Still, supervisors and managers often say things they shouldn’t. Sometimes they rely on outdated ideas about a pregnant woman’s ability to work. And sometimes, those comments—whether innocent or the result of prejudices based on assumptions—come together to form the basis for a Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) lawsuit.

Recent case: Salama Madoffe fielded calls at a call center. Floor supervisors monitored the phone lines to make sure employees followed a set script. When Madoffe became pregnant, her supervisor began making comments. He told her she sounded bored because of her pregnancy. He apologized to a customer, saying Madoffe handled a call poorly because “she is pregnant.” Then he wrote her up for poor performance.

Eventually, the company fired Madoffe, and she sued under the PDA. The company tried to argue it fired her strictly for poor performance.

The court said a jury should hear the case anyway. It will decide whether the supervisor’s ideas about pregnant women affected his ability to judge her performance. His comments could be used as direct evidence of discrimination. (Madoffe v. Safelite Solutions, No. 2:06-CV-771, SD OH, 2008)

Bottom line: Stick to the performance itself—don’t attempt to guess the reasons for poor performance at work. 

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