A pregnant nurse in Texas has filed a lawsuit in federal court against her former employer for discrimination and wrongful termination. She alleges that Senior Living Properties, which operates under the assumed name Overton Healthcare Center in Overton, Texas, fired her when she requested lighter duties due to her pregnancy. Her allegations, if true, demonstrate many of the ways employers can discriminate against pregnant workers, and how it can harm those workers.
The nurse began working at Overton, according to her complaint, in September 2004. She states that she informed her employer of her pregnancy on August 15, 2011, after she missed work that day due to a hospital visit. She missed another day of work in September, and she claims that shortly afterwards she received a change in work assignment that would require heavy lifting. She submitted a note in response from her doctor recommending that she lift no more than fifty pounds in her condition. The following day, she says, Overton fired her.
Pregnancy discrimination combines several unlawful forms of discrimination. It is a form of gender discrimination, since it primarily impacts women. It is possible for a man to be the victim of discrimination based on the burdens of having a new child, but it is rare. Discrimination due to pregnancy can take the form of reduced pay, reduced job duties and shifts, and even outright termination. Because it so often involves a loss of job duties and an accompanying reduction in pay, it is also a form of disability discrimination. Both are prohibited by anti-discrimination laws at all levels of government. In New York, anti-discrimination laws exist at every level from the city to the federal government.
The lawsuit in Texas accuses Overton of violating the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, which was passed as an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act specifically adds discrimination based on “pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions” to the list of prohibited gender discrimination activities. Such activities may include hiring and firing, layoffs, pregnancy or maternity leave, and insurance and other benefits. The law does not prohibit the reduction of job duties that is directly and reasonably related to a pregnant employee’s medical condition, but the key there is that it must be reasonable.
Multiple government agencies exist to help investigate and pursue discrimination claims, and the help of an employment attorney is invaluable. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency, investigates allegations of discrimination and sometimes files suit for alleged discriminatory practices. The agency also issues “right to sue” letters for employees claiming discrimination who wish to file suit privately. The New York State Division of Human Rights performs a similar service for the state, and the New York City Commission on Human Rights does the same for the city.
Pregnancy discrimination violates federal, state, and local laws and harms women and families. The New York gender discrimination lawyers at Phillips & Associates protect the rights guaranteed by these laws for employees and job seekers. Contact the firm today to schedule a free and confidential consultation.
Greenwich Salon Accused of Pregnancy Discrimination, New York Employment Attorney Blog, November 7, 2011
New Jersey Woman Alleges Pharmacy Fired Her Because of Pregnancy, New York Employment Attorney Blog, November 1, 2011
Kohl’s Faces Claim of Employment Discrimination Based on Medical Condition, New York Employment Attorney Blog, October 27, 2011
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