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No special protection for morning sickness

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources,Maternity Leave Laws

After 20 unexcused absences in a year, Jennifer Dormeyer was fired from her job as a bank teller. She claimed nine of the absences were because of morning sickness and sued under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA).

A federal appeals court threw out the case, noting that there was no evidence that pregnant workers were treated differently at the company. Even before Dormeyer became pregnant, the bank had sent her to a coaching session because of her excessive absenteeism.

The court said that even if pregnancy causes an employee's absences, the PDA does not protect her from being fired unless "the absences of nonpregnant employees are overlooked." So even if a company's attendance policy affects pregnant employees more than others, it would not be illegal if it's related to a legitimate business need. (Dormeyer v. Comercia Bank-Illinois, Nos. 99-1089 and 99-3252, 7th Cir., 2000)

Advice: Base your absence policies on business necessity, and apply them consistently. The PDA applies to employers with 15 or more workers. It doesn't require you to coddle pregnant workers, only to treat them the same as you do other employees.

That means you must provide the same accommodations for an expectant worker that you do for any employee unable to perform her regular duty. For example, if you move employees with back injuries from work that requires heavy lifting, make similar arrangements for pregnant workers. In general, you must treat pregnant employees as you do other workers with temporary disabilities under leave and benefit policies.

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