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Progressive discipline and pregnancy: Can the process continue?

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Performance Reviews

Q. If an employee is already on probation when she becomes pregnant, can we continue progressive discipline measures, including possible discharge?

A. Continuing with progressive disciplinary measures, including discharge, is appropriate, just as though the employee had never become pregnant.

While an employer cannot discriminate against an employee because she is pregnant, that doesn’t mean she is excused from complying with the same performance standards expected of all other employees. If the pregnant employee’s work performance merits further progressive discipline, including discharge, you may proceed.

Never, however, view the employee’s pregnancy as a negative factor when judging her performance and behavior.

Whenever you take adverse employment action against a pregnant employee (particularly if the adverse action occurs about the time the employee leaves to give birth or returns from leave), the timing may invite close scrutiny. If the pregnant worker is treated more severely than others have been treated in similar circumstances, her pregnancy may be perceived as the cause for disciplinary action.

If a pregnant employee who has been receiving progressive discipline leaves to give birth and returns in a timely manner, she should return to the same point in the disciplinary process. She should be in no worse a position than she was when her leave began.

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