Previous pregnancy troubles are no reason to refuse hiring, rehiring

Remind your managers: Contrary to popular belief, female employees don't need to be pregnant to earn legal protections under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). Even nonpregnant employees can sue.

Instruct supervisors about the PDA's broad reach. Explain that you can't refuse a job or a promotion to a female employee simply because of her potential to become pregnant. It's your responsibility to manage schedule changes due to an employee's pregnancy, just as you would for any employee who has a temporary disability.

Recent case: Nurse Suzanne Kocak resigned after suffering medical complications from pregnancy. After she recovered, she twice reapplied for open positions but wasn't rehired.

Kocak filed a PDA lawsuit, claiming the company didn't rehire her because it feared a repeat of previous scheduling problems if she became pregnant again. As evidence, Kocak said a supervisor asked during her rehire interview whether she planned to have more children.

The company argued that Kocak shouldn't be protected under PDA because she wasn't pregnant at the time she was rejected for the job. A lower court bought that argument and sided with the company.

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But a federal appeals court took issue with that reasoning, saying it didn't matter whether she was pregnant at the time of the lawsuit because the PDA also bans discrimination against a woman because of her "capacity to become pregnant." (Kocak v. Community Health Partners of Ohio, No. 03-4650, 6th Cir., 2005)

Final tip: Remind hiring managers that asking female applicants (or female employees) anything about their childbirth plans is a major legal "no no."

Explain pregnancy-bias law to supervisors

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) says:
Hiring. You can't refuse to hire a pregnant woman because of her pregnancy, because of a pregnancy-related condition or because of co-workers', clients' or customers' prejudices.
Pregnancy and maternity leave. You can't single out pregnancy-related conditions for special procedures to determine an employee's ability to work. If an employee is temporarily unable to perform her job due to pregnancy, you must treat her the same as any other temporarily disabled employee. Allow pregnant employees to work as long as they are able to perform their jobs. Also, you must hold open a job for a pregnancy-related absence the same length of time that jobs are held open for employees on sick or disability leave. (Review your past practices.)
Health insurance. Employer-provided health insurance must cover expenses for pregnancy-related conditions on the same basis as costs for other medical conditions.
Fringe benefits. You can't limit pregnancy-related benefits to married employees. Treat employees with pregnancy-related disabilities the same as other temporarily disabled employees for accrual of seniority, vacation, raises and disability benefits.
Source: EEOC, www.eeoc.gov/types/pregnancy.html.
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