Company Named In Pregnancy Discrimination Complaint
Workplace discrimination is something that employers generally go to great lengths to avoid. There may be no intent to violate the rights of any particular person or group, but employees can still experience discrimination and they have the right to take legal action.
However, employers have the right to defend against these claims. Defending against these claims can be a fairly sensitive process, as it requires employers to explain employment decisions without minimizing the issue of discrimination. In many cases, news about alleged discrimination is biased against an employer so responding to the claim can be tricky situation.
For example, a recent discrimination claim was filed in another state by a woman who believes she was the victim of pregnancy discrimination. According to her lawsuit, she was working as a police officer when she became pregnant. and could no longer wear the protective gear required, as it was causing breathing and heart problems. She requested a move to only work in light duty jobs.
Employers are expected to make appropriate accommodations for pregnant or disabled workers when appropriate and possible. However, the nature of the accommodations and the extent to which an employer is required to go is not always clear.
In this case, the woman says that the department would not adequately modify her assignments; instead she was expected her to use her own vacation time and sick leave during her pregnancy, in accordance with a policy change at the department. The claim is that the policy discriminates against pregnant women.
Her employer has responded to the situation, noting that while they don't agree with the woman's claims, they support her right to file a lawsuit. Further, they stated that they understand that the policy may be problematic, but it is not discriminatory.
This measured response by the employer illustrates how cautious employers must be when responding to similar lawsuits. Companies do not want to be seen as insensitive or callous, but they are often and easily made out to be the "bad guy" in employment disputes. Employers and business owners should remember, however, that while the media and public may say one thing, it is ultimately up to the courts to decide whether they have violated a person's rights or not. Having an effective legal defense can be the best way to defend an employment decision and protect a company's reputation and future.
Source: WKRC, "Pregnant police officer files discrimination claim," Aug. 18, 2014