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Focus on expectant mom’s work performance, not her pregnancy

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in Human Resources,Maternity Leave Laws

Here’s a simple message you can pass on to bosses dealing with pregnant employees: Tell them the only appropriate response is to offer the mother-to-be a congratulations when she announces her pregnancy.

Any subsequent remarks are just fodder for a potential lawsuit, especially if they concern problems like attendance or the child care arrangements the new mom will make.

Instead, keep the focus on objective measures, such as job performance.

Recent case: Isabelle worked as a nurse for a home health care agency. She was one of three nurses and several nurses’ aides who gave round-the-clock care to a disabled patient.

When Isabelle became pregnant, she soon began to hear rumors that she would be removed from the work schedule.

She also heard a manager comment that if pregnant nurses “couldn’t do their jobs,” they would not be allowed to work at all. Then she was directed to train two potential replacement nurses.

She quit and sued, alleging pregnancy discrimination.

The court said her case could go forward, based on her allegations that a manager had made the disparaging comment about pregnant nurses. That was potential evidence that the company treated pregnant women differently from other em­­ployees who missed work for other medical reasons. They weren’t threatened with termination because of potential attendance problems. (Atem v. Accurate Home­­care, No. 13-903, DC MN, 2013)

Final note: The Pregnancy Dis­­crimination Act prohibits treating pregnant women less favorably than other employees who may take time off for medical problems.

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