Pregnancy Discrimination: Real-World Examples of Women Who Fought Back

August 21, 2020

Pregnancy discrimination is all too common in the workplace. Claims for pregnancy discrimination are increasing all over the U.S. Last year, the EEOC filed 3,000 claims of pregnancy discrimination. More than $22 million in payouts for those claims were ultimately paid—that’s more than a 30% increase in the annual average ($17 million) recorded over the last decade.

What is Pregnancy or Maternity Discrimination?

Pregnancy discrimination is defined as the unfavorable treatment of pregnant women at work. Federal and state laws also protect women from pregnancy discrimination because of childbirth or because of a medical condition connected to pregnancy or childbirth.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy concerning any aspect of employment. This includes discrimination based on pregnancy or maternity in hiring, termination, wages, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, fringe benefits (like vacation, medical leave, and health insurance), or any other term or condition of the individual’s employment.

What Can a Person Do if They’re a Victim of Pregnancy Discrimination?

If an individual believes they’ve been treated unfavorably and discriminated against because of pregnancy or maternity, they can file a lawsuit against their employer.

Let’s look at seven stories of those who chose to stand up for their rights—and won.

  1. Walmart (April 2020): a federal judge in Illinois approved a $14 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit that alleged that Walmart discriminated against its pregnant employees by denying them necessary workplace accommodations. Walmart’s policy explicitly excluded pregnant employees from accommodations it offered to employees with disabilities or injuries that kept them from performing certain jobs. The policy said that pregnancy was a medical condition that wasn’t eligible for reassignment to a lighter-duty job or the transfer of certain tasks to other employees. That meant that Talisa Borders wasn’t able to be relieved of heavy-duty lifting when she was pregnant in 2013. But ultimately, she and other women at Walmart prevailed.
  2. Smiley Dental (October 2019): the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that it had entered into a Consent Decree to resolve a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit against Smiley Dental Walnut, PLLC in Texas. The EEOC brought the pregnancy discrimination lawsuit on behalf of a former employee, Jassmin Fernandez under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). The EEOC said that Smiley Dental violated the PDA by firing Fernandez because of her pregnancy. Smiley Dental paid $20,000 and provided other relief to Fernandez.
  3. Fox News (May 2018): Lidia Curanaj, a reporter for Fox 5 in New York, filed a discrimination and hostile work environment suit against the network’s parent company, 21st Century Fox. She alleged that Chairman Roger Ailes harassed her when she was applying for a job at Fox News. Curanaj also claimed that she was subject to persistent discrimination and retaliation during her time at Fox 5. She alleged that her hours were reduced, resulting in less pay, after she told her managers that she was pregnant. Curanaj received part of a $10 million settlement that included plaintiffs of a number of discrimination lawsuits brought by Fox employees.
  4. UPS (September 2019): United Parcel Service agreed to a $2.25 million settlement to resolve a dispute alleging that the company discriminated against pregnant parcel workers. The agreement provides payment to employees who weren’t properly compensated while they were pregnant—a pay difference between short-term disability payments they received and the amount they would have received if they’d been allowed to work. Also, until UPS changed its pregnancy policy in 2015, the company had provided light-duty assignments to employees who’d been injured on the job, those with certain driving restrictions, and those with disabilities—but not to pregnant employees. A UPS driver alleged that not doing so violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA).
  5. Humana (March 2019): Kate Jenkins was hired by Humana in 2005 as field service coordinator in one of its New Jersey offices. She was promoted three times, reaching the position of regional executive director. In February 2014, she witnessed two managers complaining about the number of employees who’d requested or taken time under the Family and Medical Leave Act. When she told one of those managers about her pregnancy in May 2014, the manager asked Jenkins who would watch her baby while she worked and how much maternity leave she was planning to take. Jenkins took a leave of absence under the FMLA and state law for three months. When she returned, her manager canceled a number of appointments with her, and she was fired in January 2019, allegedly for violations of Humana’s “critical offenses policy. Humana agreed to pay Jenkins $500,000 to settle the pregnancy discrimination case.
  6. Tucson (AZ) Fire Department (April 2019): Tucson firefighter Carrie Clark sued her employer and was awarded $3.8 million for the discrimination and retaliation she faced when she requested a designated area to pump breast milk. When Clark returned to work in October of 2012 after giving birth to her first child in July, prior to her first day back, she told the Battalion Chief that she needed a private room to pump breast milk while on duty. Under federal and state law, workplaces must have a private space, other than a bathroom, for women to pump, and cannot discriminate against women in the workplace based on “pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.” But the Tucson Fire Department didn’t have any policy in place for a procedure on how to handle Clark’s request. As a result, they relied on supervisors to make decisions regarding what and where Clark could pump, which led to her being given swing assignments, or short-term assignments bouncing around several different fire stations in the city. None of the locations Clark subsequently worked at had appropriate rooms in which to pump. Because of this, Clark was forced to use vacation and sick-leave time because she left work to pump in a private place.Further, when Clark became pregnant again in January 2014, she was ordered to perform firefighting drills no other members of her crew were required to perform. The firefighter was also informed that she was required to have a doctor’s note to exercise, and she was required to exercise at a specific location. But the fire department never required this type of treatment of other employees.
  7. Rainbow USA, Inc. (January 2020): This specialty apparel chain Louisiana agreed to pay $11,000 in back pay to settle a federal pregnancy discrimination lawsuit. A junior assistant manager in her first trimester of pregnancy was illegally suspended indefinitely and then two days later was fired after the company learned of her pregnancy-related restrictions.

Takeaway

Research shows that each child that a woman has reduces her hourly wages by 4%, while men’s earnings increase by 6% when they become fathers, after taking into account experience, education, marital status and hours worked.

If your employer has treated you unfavorably or discriminated against you because of your pregnancy or maternity under state or federal law, you should speak with an experienced pregnancy discrimination attorney at Florin Gray Bouzas Owens, LLC. Our knowledgeable attorney can tell you whether your claim has merit and what steps to take to protect your rights. A pregnancy and maternity discrimination attorney at FGBO may be able to help you obtain compensation for your treatment and injuries.

At Florin Gray Bouzas Owens, our legal team is dedicated to the pursuit of justice for the people we represent. Our law firm has more than 100 years of combined experience successfully representing clients in employment law. We operate differently than many law firms and always put the best interests of our clients first. Contact Florin Gray Bouzas Owens, LLC today.

Read about partner Greg Owen’s comments on a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit here.

Contact Us Today

All fields are required
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.