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Never assume pregnant employee can’t work

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Here’s an important reminder to pass along to your organization’s supervisors: While pregnant employees who experience complications may be temporarily disabled and entitled to reasonable accommodations, never assume an employee has limitations just because she is pregnant.

Assuming that someone can’t perform her job due to pregnancy and then changing the job or rethinking a promotion can prove to be a costly mistake. Consider what happened in this case, when a woman who had just earned a big promotion announced her pregnancy.

Recent case: Carol had just been promoted into management at a debt collection firm in New Jersey when she announced she was pregnant.

Almost immediately, her supervisors rescinded the promotion.

Their stated reasons: First, because Carol would give birth during the company’s busy tax season, her absence would be a problem.

Second, she was warned that the new job would be stressful and that it would be better for her to concentrate on her health, not the demands of a difficult new job. For Carol’s own good, they said, the company was rescinding her promotion.

She went straight to the EEOC, which filed suit on her behalf in federal court. Perhaps realizing that its position was indefensible, the employer never bothered to answer the lawsuit.

That meant the judge was free to enter judgment in favor of the EEOC on Carol’s behalf, and he did—in the amount of $118,000. (EEOC v. Receivable Management, Inc., DCNJ, 2017)

Final note: Several federal laws may apply when an employee becomes pregnant.

Under the Pregnancy Discrim-ination Act, employers may not discriminate against women because they are pregnant, may become pregnant or have been pregnant. Under the ADA and the FMLA, pregnant women may be entitled to reasonable accommodations for pregnancy-related disabilities and to time off for routine medical care related to the pregnancy.

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