Most people in the state of Indiana are familiar with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits any employer from discriminating against its employees on the basis of race, color, religion, sex and national origin. But few may be familiar with the amendment made in 1978 which also protects employees from being discriminated against on the basis of pregnancy as well.
While considered to be unlawful to discriminate or terminate an employee because of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, as readers of our blog have seen from past posts, situations such as this occur occasionally across the globe. Such was the case in Washington, D.C. in 2008, when a woman is said to have been fired because she took medical leave for her pregnancy. She is now suing her former employer for discrimination and wrongful termination as a result.
During the woman’s pregnancy, complications arose that required her to remain in bed for an extended period of time. Though her condition was verified by her physician, she claims that she was quickly terminated and told by her manager that her pregnancy was not his problem. Because her employer claims to have had cause for firing her, she says that she has been unable to get another job.
In her lawsuit filed this month she seeks at least $1 million in compensatory damages, as well as an additional $10 million in punitive damages.
While her former employer would argue that they fired her because of “lack of communication,” some lawyers would be quick to point out that her pregnancy and subsequent medical condition qualify for protection under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Furthermore, it’s a strong possibility that it could be argued that the timing of the woman’s termination with her pregnancy are too coincidental to ignore, especially when it means lost wages in the end.
Source: The ABA Journal, “Pregnancy complications led to Latham firing secretary, suit says,” Debra Cassens Weiss, April 23, 2013