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Beware making sudden changes in working conditions after employee announces pregnancy

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

These days, managers have to do more work with fewer employees. It may be natural to become frustrated when a trusted and dependable employee announces she is pregnant and will be missing work.

But if the employee hears anything other than “Congratulations!” when she shares the news, she may get suspicious. And things will really get messy if the employee suddenly finds herself contending with schedule changes and comments indicating her pregnancy isn’t exactly welcome news.

Recent case: Carena Kelly worked as a physician assistant and had trouble getting pregnant. Finally, after months of fertility treatments, she succeeded. A few short weeks later, she announced the news.

Within days, she was being criticized for supposedly poor work, was told she would now become an hourly worker with a less desirable shift and wouldn’t be allowed to take FMLA leave for medical appointments.

Plus, the clinic doctor’s wife, who managed the office, began asking questions about her long-term child-care plans and revoked leave she had already approved. Plus, Kelly learned she was losing a week of vacation with pay and that another physician assistant would be hired to take over many of her job duties.

Kelly quit and sued, alleging, among other things, a hostile work environment.

The court said the case can go to trial, based on the sudden changes so closely timed to her pregnancy announcement. (Kelly v. Horizon Medical Corp., No. 3:11-CV-1501, MD PA, 2012)

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