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Remind managers and supervisors: No comments about pregnancy, family planning

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

When it comes to pregnancy announcements, the only appropriate response is a hearty “Con­­grat­­u­­lations!” Keep your thoughts on family size, birth control and other pregnancy-related concerns to yourself and warn others to follow suit.

Otherwise, if you end up terminating the employee, she just may use those comments against the company.

Recent case: Melissa, who has multiple sclerosis (MS), had three children when she went to work as a nurse. She became pregnant with her fourth, took FMLA leave and returned to work.

Soon, Melissa announced that she was pregnant again. This was met with several comments from her supervisor: “When are you getting fixed?” “When are you getting your tubes tied?” “When is your husband getting his balls snipped?”

The way FMLA leave was calculated had been changed between Melissa’s pregnancies, and this time she didn’t have enough time accumulated to return on time, partly due to MS complications with her pregnancy.

She was terminated and sued, alleging pregnancy discrimination. She based the claim in part on the comments. The court said her claim could go forward. (Saleski-Shingara, v. VNA Health Systems, et al., No. 4:14-CV-00085, MD PA, 2014)

Final note: The employer also argued that because Melissa wasn’t pregnant when she was fired, she couldn’t sue under the Preg­­nancy Dis­­crimi­­­­nation Act. The court disagreed. As long as she was still affected by the pregnancy, she had a claim. Since she had MS, which was complicated by pregnancy, she could sue.

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