“Employers should not penalize women for having children.” Those were the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) words after they brought a successful pregnancy discrimination lawsuit against a Florida nursing home last week.
The court ordered the nursing home in question to pay the woman damages for retracting their employment offer when they found out she was pregnant.
Discriminating against pregnant women is illegal
The 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act made explicit that the protection afforded to female employees under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes discrimination because they are pregnant. It is one of a number of laws that dicate how you must treat a pregnant employee.
As an employer, it can be challenging when an employee falls pregnant. They may not be able to maintain the same workload and will need some time off, even if they choose to keep it to the minimum. It may stretch your resources to cover them. However, the law is clear. You need to offer the same allowances that you would for any other employee who is “temporarily disabled.”
Any retaliation is also prohibited. You cannot fire, refuse to hire or promote a woman because she is pregnant. The EEOC could hold you to account if you fail to make reasonable accommodations for a pregnant woman’s needs.
Seek legal advice if you are unsure of the actions to take to ensure pregnant employees feel valued and do not feel discriminated against. Taking positive action now reduces the chance you defend yourself against discrimination charges in cour later.