Can An Employer Refuse To Hire An Employee Because She Might Become Pregnant?
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA) protects women from discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. The PDA does not simply prohibit an employer from discriminating against a woman because of her current pregnancy. Rather, as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in International Union, UAW v. Johnson Controls, Inc., 499 U.S. 187 (1991), the PDA also “prohibit[s] an employer from discriminating against a woman because of her capacity to become pregnant.” Likewise, as the U.S. District Court for Colorado ruled in Donaldson v. Am. Banco Corp., 945 F.Supp. 1456 (D. Colo. 1996), the PDA also prohibits an employer from discriminating against a woman because of her past pregnancy. As the Donaldson court explained, “[i]t would make little sense to prohibit an employer from firing a woman during her pregnancy but permit the employer to terminate her the day after delivery if the reason for the termination was that the woman became pregnant in the first place.”
Having represented victims of pregnancy discrimination for nearly twenty years, our Marion County, Florida pregnancy discrimination lawyers have learned that employers often refuse to hire women because they have the potential to become pregnant in the future. In Pacourek v. Island Steel Co., 858 F.Supp. 1393 (N.D. Ill. 1994) stated that “[d]iscrimination against an employee because she intends to, is trying to, or simply has the potential to become pregnant is . . . illegal discrimination.” Plainly reinforcing the holding in Pacourek, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Kocak v. Community Health Partners of Ohio, Inc., 400 F.3d 466 (6th Cir. 2005) also determined that women do not have to be pregnant to fall within the scope of the PDA’s protection against pregnancy discrimination.
Employee Claims She Was Not Hired Because Of Potential Pregnancy
In that case, Suzzane Kocak (Kocak) brought an employment discrimination lawsuit against Community Health Partners of Ohio, Inc. (Community Health) claiming that she was not rehired in violation of the PDA. Kocak was initially employed by Community Health as an obstetric nurse. Because of pregnancy complications, Kocak was compelled to resign her employment.
Two years later, Kocak reapplied for a position as a part-time nurse. During the time she was seeking the part-time nurse position, a personnel manager, Finnegan, asked Kocak whether she was pregnant or intended to become pregnant. According to Kocak, Finnegan also told her that Kocak’s former supervisor would not rehire her because of the complications in scheduling caused by her past pregnancy. Kocak was not hired for the part-time nurse position.
Employer Cannot Refuse To Hire Because of Potential Pregnancy
On appeal, the threshold issue before the Sixth Circuit was whether Kocak was protected by the PDA when she applied for the part-time nurse position. The trial court found that because Kocak was not pregnant when she applied for the position, the PDA did not protect Kocak and dismissed Kocak’s pregnancy discrimination claim. The Sixth Circuit found that the trial court’s ruling that Kocak was not within the scope of the PDA’s protection against pregnancy discrimination because she was not pregnant when seeking the part-time nurse position was legally erroneous.
The Sixth Circuit explained that under Supreme Court precedent “the PDA prohibits an employer from discriminating against a woman because of her capacity to become pregnant.” The appellate court also pointed out that, in an analogous context, it “held that an employer violates the PDA if it terminates an employee because the employee is contemplating an abortion.” Thus, the court of appeals reasoned, if “an employee may not be terminated on the basis of her potential to have an abortion, then Kocak cannot be refused employment on the basis of her potential pregnancy.” Although the Sixth Circuit ultimately concluded that Kocak had not produced sufficient evidence to prove that she was not rehired on the basis of pregnancy in violation of the PDA and dismissed her case, the Sixth Circuit’s decision unequivocally stands for the proposition that the PDA prohibits an employer from refusing to hire a woman because she has the potential to become pregnant.
Free Consultation with Ocala Pregnancy Discrimination Lawyers
Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, we are dedicated to representing victims of pregnancy discrimination. If you have been the victim of pregnancy discrimination or have questions about the scope of the PDA’s protection against pregnancy discrimination, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Marion County, Florida pregnancy discrimination lawyers. 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.