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Employment Law Blog
James Tarquin, P.A
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Are Employment Decisions Based On Stereotypes Associated With Pregnancy Evidence Of Pregnancy Discrimination?

manager yelling at pregnant woman

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), employees are protected from discrimination on the basis of sex.  In General Electric Co. v. Gilbert, 429 U.S. 125 (1976), the U.S. Supreme Court infamously ruled that discrimination on the basis of pregnancy was not sex discrimination under Title VII.  Because of the Gilbert decision, Congress enacted the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA).  The PDA, which amended Title VII, makes clear that sex discrimination under Title VII includes discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Learn more about a pregnancy discrimination case below. 

Having fought for the rights of pregnant employees for nearly twenty years, our Citrus County, Florida pregnancy discrimination lawyers have learned that employers frequently make employment decision based on stereotypes associated with pregnancy, including stereotypes about pregnant employees’ job commitment, physical ability to do the work, work attendance, or need for leave.  In Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, 490 U.S. 228 (1989), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Title VII prohibits employers from making employment decisions based on gender stereotypes and explained that “we are beyond the day when an employer could evaluate employees by assuming or insisting that they matched the stereotypes associated with their group[.]”  The decision by the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals in Troy v. Bay State Computer Group, Inc., 141 F.3d 378 (1st Cir. 1998) is instructive in showing that Title VII’s prohibition against gender stereotyping applies with equal force to employment decisions based on stereotypes associated with pregnancy.

Employee Fired After Missing Work Because Of Pregnancy

In that case, Alexandra Troy (Troy) claimed that her former employer, Bay State Computer Group, Inc. (Bay State), fired her on the basis of pregnancy in violation of the PDA.  One month after she was hired and was still a probationary employee, Troy’s doctor told her that she was pregnant and would require a brief hospitalization.  As a result, Troy missed two days from work.  When she returned to work, Troy’s supervisor asked her about her plans.  Troy told the supervisor that she intended to work until the baby was born, take maternity leave, and then return to Bay State.

Two months later, Troy’s supervisor told her that her work was satisfactory and she was now a permanent employee.  The next month, Troy missed two days from work due to complications related to her pregnancy.  When she returned to work, Troy’s supervisor told her that “her body was trying to tell her something” and her “attendance was becoming a serious problem.”  Troy’s supervisor suggested that she accept a discharge from Bay State and collect unemployment benefits instead of taking an unpaid maternity leave.  The supervisor repeated his remark about Troy’s “body trying to tell her something” in a later discussion with another Bay State employee.  When the employee objected to the remark, the supervisor allegedly replied:  “if I am ever asked, I will deny I ever said it.”

When Troy told her supervisor that she was rejecting his suggestion and would continue working, the supervisor told Troy that she was terminated effectively immediately.  When Troy told her supervisor that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) informed her that Bay State could not fire her under the circumstances, the supervisor told Troy that if necessary he would say that there was no need for her job.  In response to the charge of discrimination Troy filed with the EEOC, Bay State represented to the EEOC that Troy had been terminated for poor attendance.

Employee Fired Based On Pregnancy Stereotyping

After a trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Troy on her pregnancy discrimination claim.  On appeal, Bay State argued that the evidence was insufficient to support the jury’s verdict because the “evidence overwhelmingly showed that [Troy] was fired for poor attendance.”  The First Circuit rejected Bay State’s argument and upheld the jury’s verdict in favor of Troy on her pregnancy discrimination claim.

The problem with Bay State’s argument, the First Circuit reasoned, was that Troy’s job attendance and medical condition were “not wholly distinct.”  “A plausible reading of the situation,” the court of appeals explained, was that Troy’s supervisor was “concerned because [she] was pregnant and had already missed several days of work on that account, and he believed that she was likely thereafter to have a poor attendance record.”  In firing her, the appellate court found, the jury could conclude that Troy’s supervisor “acted on little more than a stereotypical judgment that pregnant women are poor attendees.”  This type of “stereotyping” amounted to pregnancy discrimination, the First Circuit concluded, because “the company could not discharge [Troy] simply for being pregnant on the speculation that she would probably be rendered unable to fulfill the requirements of the job.”

Free Consultation With Ocala Pregnancy Discrimination Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, we have substantial experience litigating pregnancy discrimination cases.  If you have been the victim of pregnancy discrimination or have questions about an employer making employment decisions based on stereotypes associated with pregnancy, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Citrus County, Florida pregnancy discrimination attorneys.  Our employee rights law firm takes pregnancy discrimination cases on a contingency fee basis.  This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.

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