Pregnancy Discrimination and Wrongful Termination

Skilled Employment Law Attorneys for Residents of Atlanta

Unfortunately, some employers feel strain instead of joy when their employees are pregnant. Companies may focus on the potential need for time off for doctor’s appointments and modified duties. Some employers respond to these concerns by discriminating against an employee, even to the point of firing her. If you have a legal issue involving wrongful termination at an Atlanta workplace, the knowledgeable pregnancy discrimination lawyers at Mays & Kerr can advise you.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Pregnancy discrimination is not rare. In fiscal year 2013, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) received 3,541 pregnancy discrimination charges. This number, of course, represents only the women who chose to come forward and file a complaint.

Employers with 15 or more employees may not discriminate because of a person’s sex pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. They may not deny employment opportunities or limit, segregate, or classify employees based on their gender in a way that adversely affects an employee’s status. Pregnancy discrimination is a form of sex-based discrimination. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (“PDA”) amended Title VII to include pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions within discrimination based on sex.

The EEOC enforces Title VII and the PDA. An employee must file a charge with the EEOC within 180 days of the discrimination before she can file a discrimination lawsuit under Title VII. The EEOC is also responsible for promulgating regulations related to discrimination. The regulations provide that employers must treat disabilities caused by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions in the same way as other disabilities for job-related purposes.

Wrongful Termination Related to Pregnancy

Employers sometimes perceive pregnancy and a newborn child as a threat to productivity. When facing the possibility of an employee who will need time off for doctor’s appointments, for the birth of the child, and for some time after the child is born, some employers may discriminate against a female employee. They may choose to terminate her rather than grant time off, assign modified duties, or hold her job open while she is on leave.

Georgia generally follows at-will employment, allowing either party to terminate the employment for any reason that does not violate law or an employment contract. Termination based on unlawful discrimination or on an employee’s use of or request for pregnancy-related leave may, therefore, lead to a wrongful termination claim.

An employee may be able to prove wrongful termination even if the employer states another reason for termination, if she can show that the stated reason was a pretext. The timing of the termination, the treatment of other employees, and any inconsistency in the stated reasons provided by the employer may help support the employee’s claim.

Disability Implications

Although a healthy pregnancy is generally not considered a disability, pregnancy can sometimes limit a woman’s ability to perform her job duties. If a female employee is placed on restricted duty or told not to work by her doctor, she is entitled to the same rights and benefits that a similarly capable person who is not pregnant would have. A woman who is disabled due to pregnancy is entitled to the same amount and form of leave that a person with a similar level of disability would receive. If the employer would provide light duty, modified tasks, or alternative assignments to a temporarily disabled employee who is not pregnant, the employer must provide the same for an employee rendered temporarily disabled by pregnancy.

Additionally, some impairments arising from pregnancy may also qualify as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). If the impairment does meet the requirements of the ADA, the employer may be required to provide reasonable accommodations to allow the employee to perform her duties.

Remedies

Available remedies for a wrongful termination based on pregnancy discrimination will vary according to the facts, but they may include reinstatement, back pay, front pay, and compensatory damages. When an employer’s behavior has been especially egregious, punitive damages may also be available.

Seek Advice from an Atlanta Lawyer on a Gender Discrimination Claim

The Atlanta attorneys at Mays & Kerr are familiar with all forms of employment discrimination laws, including those on sexual harassment and other misconduct in the workplace related to an individual’s gender. We have experience counseling and representing both employers and employees in these matters. If you have a legal issue regarding wrongful termination arising from pregnancy discrimination, call us at 1-877-986-5529 or contact us online to set up an appointment.