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Pregnancy discrimination actions heat up

The EEOC has released news of multiple legal actions related to pregnancy discrimination, and employers should take notice.

First, the agency filed suit against a bakery cafe in New Orleans, claiming that it violated federal law when it fired an employee because of a medical condition related to her pregnancy.

According to the EEOC, the bakery operator unlawfully fired an employee after she missed two shifts to seek emergency medical treatment related to her pregnancy.

The suit said that the pregnant employee was ready to return to work within two days and performed satisfactorily, but the company fired her because, according to her managers, her pregnancy complications created a reliability issue.

The EEOC alleges that the employee was able to perform her job functions and that the bakery unlawfully fired her because of perceived impairments and conditions related to her pregnancy.

In the complaint, the EEOC argues that the bakery’s conduct violated 1) Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars discrimination because of pregnancy or related medical conditions, and 2) the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which forbids discrimination against a qualified individual due to a pregnancy-related impairment that the employer regards as a disability.

Suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Michael Kirkland, director of the EEOC’s New Orleans Field Office, said, “A pregnant worker has a right to an equal opportunity in the workplace, and the EEOC works to safeguard equal opportunity for all pregnant workers.”

The EEOC’s New Orleans Field Office is part of the Houston District, which covers Louisiana and parts of Texas.

$50K settlement

The EEOC also announced that a Georgia-based medical laboratory will pay $50,000 and provide other relief to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit.

The EEOC lawsuit alleged that the lab discriminated and retaliated against an employee who was experiencing pregnancy-related symptoms. It fired the pregnant worker while she was on approved medical leave and receiving short-term disability benefits, shortly after she complained of pregnancy discrimination to the Chief Operating Officer.

According to the EEOC, the lab discharged the employee for the pretextual reason of failing to report to work for two days without notice, when she sought to return to work after her pregnancy-related medical leave ended.

After attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its administrative conciliation process, the EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, claiming violations of Title VII.

In addition to $50,000 in monetary relief, the two-year consent decree requires the lab to provide its employees with specialized training on Title VII’s prohibitions against sex discrimination and retaliation. It must also circulate Title VII policies and its internal complaint reporting procedures to employees and report complaints of pregnancy discrimination to the EEOC during the term of the consent decree.

Texas court blocks PWFA enforcement

Meanwhile, a U.S. District Court in Texas has blocked the enforcement of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) against the state of Texas.

The court said that Congress improperly passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023, including the PWFA, which requires employers with at least 15 employees to make reasonable accommodations for employees and applicants with known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

The court permanently enjoined the EEOC and Department of Justice from enforcing the PWFA against the State of Texas and its agencies.

The state had argued that the PWFA could not be enforced because Congress violated the Constitution when it passed the measured without a quorum.

The ruling was stayed for seven days to give the federal government time to appeal.