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Court: Pregnancy plus slipshod discharge investigation doesn’t warrant negligence suit

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in Human Resources,Maternity Leave Laws

A federal court has refused to expand the ways an employee can sue for alleged pregnancy discrimination. Had the female plaintiff succeeded, the case might have opened the door to a runaway jury award.

Recent case: Jessica got excellent performance reviews for her work as a pharmaceutical sales representative.

During a winter storm, her boss told her she should use her best judgment about whether to make planned sales calls. Jessica went to one morning meeting, canceled an afternoon appointment and then worked from home.

The following morning, Jessica told her boss she was pregnant, would need a Caesarean section and wanted to take maternity leave. Afterward, he began finding fault with her work. Within a few days, she was placed on administrative leave for allegedly lying about her activities the day of the storm.

Jessica asked for an opportunity to show she hadn’t done anything wrong. She provided a list of what she had accomplished that day, and provided the name and number of the medical practice she had visited in the morning. No one investigated and she was terminated.

She sued, alleging among other pregnancy-related claims, that her former employer violated North Carolina public policy by negligently investigating her side of the story.

The court dismissed that claim. It reasoned that there were other remedies for pregnancy discrimination and no need to expand those remedies. (Simpson v. Amylin Pharmaceuticals, No. 1:11-CV- 301, WD NC, 2012)

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