A Pennsylvania woman recently filed a discrimination lawsuit against her employer, charging them with a variety of discriminations in relation to her pregnancy. Though she did not win her case based on a variety of legal complications, the facts of the case are still very important for those who are in similar situations.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act is a federal law that protects women from being discriminated against on the basis of their pregnancy. The Pennsylvania case involved a pregnant woman who was hired to work as a clerk. It was early in her pregnancy and she was not visibly pregnant, and she did not advise the employer of her pregnancy at the time she was hired. When she requested maternity leave towards the end of her pregnancy she was informed that the company did not have a maternity leave policy, and that instead she would be given ten days of leave. When she gave birth and informed the company that she was taking that medical leave they responded on the same day by terminating her position in writing. She spent the following five months repeatedly asking to be rehired by the company and received no response. She was later told that all of the company’s positions had been filled by “nonpregnant” employees.
The employee filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), as well as in federal court on a variety of discrimination charges. Unfortunately, most of the charges were dismissed because she had waited too long to file the complaints – there is a time limit indicating that complaints must be lodged within 300 days. The court was able to make a decision on a single charge, alleging that her employer had not rehired her as a result of her pregnancy. The court was faced with the first deciding whether that was a claim that could be made, as she was no longer pregnant when she tried to get rehired. They ended up deciding that though she did not have to be pregnant at the time of the discrimination in order to sue her employer for pregnancy discrimination, she had not worked for the company long enough to qualify on the grounds of an FMLA violation, so she did not win.
There are a few important things to learn from this case. First is that those who believe they have been victims of discrimination need to act quickly. If you wait too long, your case may be dismissed for having allowed too much time to go by. The second is that you do not have to be physically pregnant to be a victim of pregnancy discrimination on the job. In this case the court referred back to a previous ruling that “a woman need not be physically pregnant at the time of the alleged discrimination to state such a claim.” They went on to say that pregnancy is a protected class and discrimination can be claimed whether the employee “suffered the adverse employment action during pregnancy, maternity leave, or shortly after returning to work.”
In New Jersey, employees are not required to first file with the EEOC. New Jersey employees have the right to file directly in State or Federal Court under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. There is a two year statute of limitations on cases brought under New Jersey’s law.
If you have been the subject of workplace discrimination based on your gender or pregnancy, or you have been punished or retaliated against as a result of complaining about it, please call us. Our experienced and knowledgeable employment law attorneys at Schorr & Associates will work hard to achieve justice for you.