EEOC Case Brought on Behalf of Pregnant Applicant Reminds Employers in New York and Elsewhere Pregnancy Discrimination is Illegal

A federal judge in Michigan has refused to dismiss a discrimination lawsuit brought by the nation’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of a pregnant job applicant against Weight Watchers. In Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. The WW Group Inc., a pregnant woman applied to work as a group leader or receptionist at weight loss company WW Group Inc. According to the woman, she was denied employment because she failed to meet the unwritten applicant goal weight policy of the organization. In addition, a Weight Watchers manager allegedly told the woman “not to bother interviewing” because the company does not hire pregnant employees.

After the woman filed a complaint with the EEOC, Weight Watchers filed a motion for summary judgment. According to U.S. District Judge Paul D. Borman, the company failed to demonstrate that its policy of requiring applicants to meet their predetermined goal weight related directly to his or her ability to perform the job. In his order denying summary judgment, Judge Borman noted that Weight Watchers’ motion was extremely narrow because the company admitted to its refusal to interview the applicant due to her pregnancy status. Despite this, the company claimed it was entitled to dismissal since she was not at her goal weight when she applied for the position. Additionally, the federal judge noted Weight Watchers’ policy of making exceptions and continuing the employment of workers who became pregnant while already working for the company.

According to the court, the company’s goal weight policy with regard to applicants was unclear because it is not formally written in any company guidelines. Also, Judge Borman stated there was no reason to believe Weight Watchers’ claim that the woman would not have been hired even if she were not pregnant. Because a genuine issue of material fact existed in the EEOC’s lawsuit, the federal court refused to grant summary judgment to Weight Watchers and ordered the case to proceed to trial.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include protections against discrimination on the basis of a worker or job applicant’s pregnancy status. The New York State Human Rights Law and the New York City Human Rights Law provide similar protections at both the state and local levels. In general, these laws prohibit employers from making hiring decisions based on pregnancy and other protected statuses.

The dedicated lawyers at Phillips & Associates have many years of experience representing the victims of sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination in New York City and surrounding areas. At Phillips & Associates, our knowledgeable attorneys are available to help you protect your rights at the city, state, and federal levels. To schedule a free, confidential consultation with a quality advocate, please give our caring lawyers a call today at (212) 248-7431 or contact Phillips & Associates through our website.

More Blog Posts:

Jury Verdict Reminds Employers in New York and Across the U.S. to Protect Temporary Workers from Unlawful Harassment, New York Employment Attorney Blog, November 26, 2013
Supreme Court Weighs Whether to Hear Pregnancy Discrimination Case that Could Affect Workers’ Rights in New York and Nationwide, New York Employment Attorney Blog, November 19, 2013

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