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Pregnant worker? Congratulate, don’t speculate

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in Human Resources,Maternity Leave Laws

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: When an employee announces her pregnancy, the only appropriate response is “Con­grat­u­la­tions!” Anything else may end up being used against you later if things don’t go smoothly.

Recent case: Melissa Buchanan-Rushing worked as a police officer in Royse City and handled security as a resource officer at a middle school. In her job protecting students, teachers and staff on campus, she sometimes had to intervene in fights, make arrests and confiscate weapons.

While on light-duty assignment for an unrelated temporary medical problem, she told the police chief she was pregnant. She soon asked to be re­instated to her regular-duty position at the school for the rest of her pregnancy.

That’s when the city manager asked her, “Do you mean to tell me, pregnant, that you want to put on your uni­form, get in a patrol car …?” Around the same time, the police chief emailed Buchanan-Rushing and told her she could not be placed on active duty at the school “for ­obvious reasons for a while.”

Later, Buchanan-Rushing was ­terminated. She sued, alleging that she was the victim of pregnancy discrimination.

The court said she could use the statements as evidence that her pregnancy may have motivated her termination. (Buchanan-Rushing v. City of Royse City, No. 3:09-CV-2434, ND TX, 2011)

Final note: The city also tried to justify refusing to allow Buchanan-Rushing to work at her previous assignment because she would need to take a requalifying firearms exam. The city feared exposure to lead in the bullets fired at the indoor range might damage her fetus. The court said that’s the sort of thing that has traditionally been used as an excuse to block pregnant women from working and can be pregnancy discrimination evidence.

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