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James Tarquin, P.A
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Are Pregnant Employees Entitled To Time Off From Work Due To Pregnancy-Related Complications?

Young pregnant woman working in the office

Having fought for the rights of pregnant employees for more than two decades, our Sumter County, Florida wrongful termination attorneys know that many pregnant employees need to request time off from work due to pregnancy-related complications. In far too many cases, our Wildwood, Florida wrongful termination lawyers have learned, employers refuse to grant pregnant employees’ request for time off due to pregnancy-related complications. Instead, employers simply terminate their employment. In this article, our Sumter County, Florida wrongful termination attorneys explain how the decision in Flores v. Pilot Travel Centers, LLC, Case No. H-21-2317 (S.D. Tex. Oct. 21, 2021) illustrates that pregnant employees may be entitled to time off from work due to pregnancy-related complications under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Protection For Pregnant Employees

As observed by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Spees v. James Marine, Inc., 617 F.3d 380 (6th Cir. 2010), pregnancy, “by itself,” does not constitute a disability under the ADA. However, the Speers court explained, pregnancy-related complications that “are not part of a ‘normal’ pregnancy” can rise to the level of a disability under the ADA. When pregnancy-related complications rise to the level of a disability under the ADA, the ADA then imposes a reasonable accommodation requirement on employers. Under such circumstances, an employer is obligated by the ADA to make reasonable accommodations for an employee’s pregnancy-related complications. Under the ADA, time off from work, whether paid or unpaid, can be a reasonable accommodation. Thus, when a pregnant employee is unable to work due to pregnancy-related complications, she may be entitled under the ADA to take time off from work as a reasonable accommodation for her pregnancy-related complications.

Wrongful Termination Lawsuit

In the Flores case, a woman named Flores (Flores) brought a disability discrimination claim against her former employer, Pilot Travel Centers, LLC (Pilot) under the ADA. Flores claims that Pilot violated the ADA by refusing to accommodate her pregnancy-related complications by granting her request for time off from work. Instead of complying the ADA’s reasonable accommodation requirement, Flores contends, Pilot terminated her employment.

On March 7, 2020, Flores informed the store General Manager, a woman named Peake, that she was pregnant. Flores also informed Peake that her “pregnancy was classified as high-risk” because she had been the victim of a gunshot wound years earlier that “caused severe damage” to her uterus. As a result of that injury, Flores will be “required to give birth via cesarean section between week thirty and thirty-two of pregnancy.” Ten days after Flores told Peake of her high-risk pregnancy, Flores began to experience pregnancy-related complications during her shift. Flores informed Peake of her condition and requested to be excused from work to go to the hospital immediately. Peake authorized Flores to leave work early.

Flores was seen and released from the hospital. Her treating doctor advised her to refrain from working for two days. In a text message to Peake, Flores explained that her doctor told her not to work for two days and she had a supporting doctor’s note to provide. Instead of granting the requested leave, Peake fired Flores. Peake replied to Flores, “regardless of the fact if you have a doctor’s note or not, I have to do what’s in the best interest for the store.”

Evidence Of Wrongful Termination

Pilot filed a motion with the trial court seeking dismissal of Flores’ disability discrimination claim. In support of its motion for dismissal, Pilot argued that Flores’ pregnancy did not constitute a disability under the ADA and because Flores was not disabled under the ADA, Pilot was not required to accommodate her by granting her request for a two-day leave of absence. The trial court denied Pilot’s motion for dismissal and ruled that Flores’ allegations were sufficient to establish that her pregnancy was a disability under the ADA and that Pilot violated the ADA by refusing to accommodate her disability by granting her request for a two-day leave of absence.

At the outset of its opinion, the trial court explained that Flores does not allege that her pregnancy, by itself, constitutes a disability under the ADA. Instead, Flores claims that because of an injury from a gunshot wound she cannot have a “normal pregnancy,” that “her pregnancy was classified as high risk,” and that she will be “required to give birth via cesarean section between week thirty and thirty-two of pregnancy.” Flores further claims that she suffered from pregnancy-related complications as a result of her high-risk pregnancy and because of her pregnancy-related complications, she required a two-day leave of absence from work. These allegations, the trial court concluded, were sufficient to establish that Flores’ pregnancy constituted a disability under the ADA.

Having found that Flores was disabled within the meaning of the ADA, the trial court then explained that Pilot was required by the ADA to reasonably accommodate Flores’ disability. Flores requested an accommodation for her disability, the trial court noted, by requesting a two-day leave of absence because of pregnancy-related complications. “Time off,” the trial court observed, “can be a reasonable accommodation.” “Instead of considering, much less granting the request,” the trial court pointed out, “she was fired immediately.” Because Pilot refused to “accommodate her modest request for time off” and “instead terminated her employment,” the trial court concluded, Flores had alleged sufficient facts to establish that she was wrongfully terminated in violation of the ADA.

Wrongful Termination Lawyers In Wildwood, FL

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing workers throughout Central Florida, our wrongful termination attorneys in Sumter County, Florida have litigated employment discrimination cases in Florida courts for more than twenty years. If have been fired for missing work due to pregnancy-related complications or have questions about your rights as a pregnant employee under federal employment discrimination law, please contact our office for a free consultation with our wrongful termination lawyers in Wildwood, Florida. Our employee rights law firm takes wrongful termination 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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