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Are some of your organization’s leaders still stuck in the Dark Ages when it comes to attitudes about pregnancy, childbirth and child care? You might be a few off-base questions away from a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit.

Remind managers and supervisors to keep their opinions on mothers and motherhood to themselves.

Recent case: Lindsay Johnson applied for a job as a salesperson for Proline Concrete Tools. Later, she would tell a court that her interviewer asked about her plans for having children. He allegedly told her that it would be tough to do the job with a newborn at home. She said she wasn’t planning on having any more children—and she got the job.

All went well until Johnson became pregnant. She claims her announcement was met with anger, and that her supervisor told her that he wasn’t sure what the company owners would think of this development.

Shortly after, the company announced a downsizing and terminated Johnson, plus a male employee. Several months later, the company hired male applicants for positions similar to the one Johnson held.

Johnson sued, alleging pregnancy and sex discrimination.

The company asked the court to toss out the case, arguing it had legitimate reasons to terminate Johnson—the need to downsize. But the court refused. It said Johnson had enough evidence that sex or gender was a motivating factor to send the case to trial. (Johnson v. Proline Concrete Tools, No. 08-909, ED CA, 2009)

Advice:
It’s time to resend that old e-mail listing all the questions interviewers should not ask applicants. Remind supervisors that the EEOC and other agencies sometimes send in test applicants to see how organizations handle the hiring process.

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