If you’re trying to work through your pregnancy, you’ve undoubtedly made a thoughtful decision that continuing to work is the best way to provide for your family. Being fired because of your pregnancy can inflict a great deal of stress, frustration, and financial insecurity on you during what is an already highly stressful (albeit exciting) time in your life. While employers have considerable discretion in who they hire and fire, they cannot fire you just because you’re pregnant. If that’s happened to you, you may have the makings of a successful New York pregnancy discrimination lawsuit.
So, what exactly does pregnancy discrimination in New York look like? Here’s a real-life example from upstate. The worker, A.G., was “visibly pregnant” when she interviewed for a waitress job with a Mexican restaurant. The manager who interviewed her knew she was pregnant and the restaurant owner, A.R., also knew she was pregnant.
The restaurant hired the woman and she typically worked around 17 hours per week. However, just a few weeks into the job, the waitress came down with bronchitis and missed five days of work. When she returned to work, the owner had assigned someone else to her shift.
Despite multiple attempts by the waitress to contact A.R. about a return to work, he did not respond for roughly two weeks. When he did respond, he told the waitress that a new manager at the restaurant was “in charge of the schedule” and did not want to put her on the schedule due to her pregnancy. A.G.’s employment with the restaurant was over.
When you are the target of discrimination in New York, you will need evidence of several things. You need to prove that you were a member of a protected group or that your employer thought you were a member of a protected group. You need to show that you were qualified for the job you held, that your employer took an adverse action against you, and that the adverse action caused you to suffer actual harm.
The waitress definitely met the first category, as she was pregnant and all the relevant decision-makers at the restaurant knew she was pregnant. Discrimination based on pregnancy or pregnancy-related conditions (such as breastfeeding) is a type of sex discrimination prohibited by the New York State Human Rights Law.
The evidence presented by A.G. showed that she was generally considered to be a good employee and was qualified to be a waitress.
When the employer refused to schedule the waitress, and then later terminated her employment, it engaged in adverse employment action against her. Both a reduction of hours and firing can be adverse employment actions. Adverse employment actions can come in many different forms and may include termination, demotion, suspension, transfer to a less desirable or less prestigious role, reduction of hours, or reduction in pay.
You may be entitled to more than just lost wages
A.G.’s case demonstrates that, if you have the right proof, you can recover a variety of forms of damages. She had evidence that she struggled with finding a new job, with her job search taking more than four months. Even when she found a new job, she made less than half what she made with the restaurant. (Her new job paid $7.50 per hour, whereas she made roughly $17.50 per hour on average at the restaurant.)
She also proved the loss of the restaurant job left her “angry,” ”ashamed,” “confused” and in a state of financial insecurity. As a result, the waitress was able to recover not just an award of $9,500 for lost wages, but also an additional $2,500 in damages for mental anguish.
The right proof can also help in collecting those damages. Even if you worked for a corporate employer, the right evidence can help you recover against more than just the corporation. In A.G.’s case, A.R. was the sole owner of the corporate entity that owned the restaurant. He was also someone who participated first-hand in the discrimination against A.G. As a result, A.R. was liable for the damages A.G. suffered.
When you are a working pregnant mom, you have many things to balance and many pressures on you. Workplace discrimination due to your pregnancy shouldn’t be one of them. If that has happened or is happening to you, get in touch with the experienced New York pregnancy discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates. Our attorneys have spent many years fighting for workers harmed by pregnancy discrimination, breastfeeding discrimination, and all forms of sex discrimination. Contact us online or at (212) 248-7431 today to set up a free and confidential consultation.