Being pregnant can feel like an extremely vulnerable time. That may include feeling vulnerable with regard to your and your family’s financial security. Losing one’s job due while pregnant is a very real concern for many. Sometimes, those pregnant women are just the victims of bad luck. A lot of times, though, those women are the victims of something more nefarious, and that something is pregnancy discrimination. If that’s happened to you, a knowledgeable New York pregnancy discrimination lawyer can help you determine if you potentially have a winning case.
Here are two recent cases from the federal court system that provide some clear insight into what is — and what isn’t — a powerful case of pregnancy discrimination.
In the more recently resolved pregnancy discrimination matter, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued a Long Island-based company that leased storage containers. That company had, in early April 2018, hired a woman who was 12 weeks pregnant at the time. The woman wasn’t “showing” yet and she did not divulge the pregnancy to her employer.
In early May, the employer gave the woman her 30-day performance review. The employer scored her an “89,” which was just one point short of an “Excellent” rating. The employer still did not know of the woman’s pregnancy.
(There is, by the way, nothing wrong with not telling an employer or prospective employer about your pregnancy right away, and there is no point in your pregnancy where you become legally required to disclose your pregnancy. Women may delay disclosing for professional or personal reasons. For example, some women might delay disclosing to avoid painful workplace conversions that would inevitably occur if they miscarried. Others might delay disclosing to postpone their employer possibly modifying their job responsibilities or assignments.)
In the Long Island woman’s case, she disclosed her pregnancy to HR the day after her 30-day review. Less than one week later, the company fired her.
This made for a strong enough case that the EEOC was able to defeat the employer’s motion for summary judgment. That ruling came down in November 2021. Less than five months later, the EEOC and the company had worked out a satisfactory settlement. The settlement called for the fired employee to receive a payment of $85,000.
The EEOC’s press release divulged that it had tried “to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process,” but was unsuccessful. This is yet another reminder that, even if you are open to resolving your discrimination case via settlement, you’ll often have to defeat a defense motion for summary judgment before your employer will engage in the settlement process in a fair and reasonable way.
Evidence of a Discriminatory Motivation is Crucial
Sometimes, though, an adverse action isn’t illegal discrimination. As an example, there’s T.L., who was a “senior cash auditor” for a company in New York City. Two years into her employment, the auditor became pregnant and took FMLA leave following her delivery. One month after she returned from FMLA leave, the employer terminated her.
The auditor lost her case because the employer had evidence of a legitimate reason for T.L.’s termination. The employer had encountered revenue problems and had decided to undergo a round of layoffs. The company identified a series of positions it could eliminate without disrupting workflow. Senior cash auditor was one of those. (In other words, T.L.’s termination had nothing to do with her and was based solely on the job she held.)
When an employer puts forward a legitimate reason (as T.L.’s did,) the burden shifts back to you, as the plaintiff, to show that the employer’s stated reason was a mere pretext for discrimination. T.L. didn’t have evidence of pretext, and so her case failed.
A round of layoffs can be the basis of a successful discrimination case, but that requires the sort of proof this auditor didn’t have. If, for example, a company’s workforce is only 20% Black, but 67% of the employees targeted in a “reduction in force” were Black people, that might be strong evidence of a discriminatory motive.
While we’ve come a long way from the earliest days of pregnancy discrimination litigation, pregnancy discrimination continues to be a regrettable reality for too many women today. Getting everything you deserve from your pregnancy discrimination lawsuit is a journey of many steps. Make sure the first step is retaining knowledgeable legal counsel. The experienced New York pregnancy discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates are here to be that powerful advocate for you. We’ve fought on behalf of countless pregnant workers like you, and we’re ready to take on your case. To find out more, contact us online or at (212) 248-7431 to set up a free and confidential consultation today.