Beware even appearance of pregnancy bias

Be careful how you react when an employee announces she is expecting. In the end, the employer won this pregnancy discrimination lawsuit, but defending against it cost huge legal fees and took up hundreds of hours.

Recent case: When Nicole applied for a job at a dental practice, she didn’t tell the owner she was pregnant. She was offered the job. That’s when she announced her pregnancy, and her plans to take 12 weeks of maternity leave. The owner, feeling deceived, made notes on Nicole’s résumé indicating his disappointment that Nicole hadn’t been open about her condition.

Then the owner rescinded the employment offer because the practice only provided six weeks of maternity leave.

Nicole sued and lost the first round, but appealed. She won that round, and the dental practice appealed. The Minnesota Supreme Court sent the case back to the trial court with instructions to clarify how it reached its initial decision.

The trial court stated that it ruled against Nicole because she had not proven that the real reason the dental practice revoked the job offer was because she was pregnant. The court said it believed the owner’s explanation that it revoked the offer because it only offered six weeks of maternity leave.

Nicole appealed again. This time the appeals court sided with the employer, concluding the trial court had acted properly when it said Nicole hadn’t presented evidence that her pregnancy motivated the revocation.

The case is now finally over unless Nicole can persuade the Minnesota Supreme Court to hear the case again. (LePoint v. Family Orthodontics, Court of Appeals of Minnesota, 2018)

Final note: Never speak negatively about a pregnancy. Just congratulate the worker. Base employment decisions on matters clearly unrelated to pregnancy.