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Tell managers and supervisors: Absolutely no comments on pregnancy, parenthood allowed

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in Discrimination and Harassment,HR Management,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training,Maternity Leave Laws

Nothing builds a circumstantial sex discrimination case like needless pregnancy and parenthood comments. Explain to all managers and supervisors that their subordinates’ childbearing plans are absolutely none of their business.

Greet the big announcement with a simple “Congratulations!” and a referral to the HR office for pregnancy and childbirth leave information. Under no circumstances should anyone comment on the size of an employee’s family or their childbearing plans. Nor should anyone say anything that might be interpreted as disappointment or concern about the employee’s dedication to her job or career.

Recent case: Dina McKenna worked for Wellcare Health Plans and complained she was being harassed because of her pregnancy. She said she was excluded from some meetings while she was pregnant because her boss was concerned she “could not drink alcohol.” Then she told her boss she planned to take 12 weeks off; he suggested three weeks.

She was still breastfeeding when she returned from maternity leave. When she told a company executive she had to excuse herself from a meeting to express milk, he allegedly told her she didn’t need to do that because he “would be her baby and she could feed him.”

Shortly after, McKenna approached management about a promotion, but said she and her husband wanted to have yet another child. The response? “Isn’t four kids enough?”

A few weeks later, she was terminated, allegedly for alienating her co-workers and being divisive. This was the first time McKenna had been criticized, so she assumed the real reason was discrimination based on her desire to have a family and a career. She sued.

The court said a jury should hear McKenna’s case. There was enough circumstantial evidence to show possible sex discrimination. (McKenna v. Wellcare Health Plans, No. 6:06-CV-1923, MD FL, 2008)

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