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Employment Law Blog
James Tarquin, P.A
As part of our commitment to assist and educate employees in fighting back against the abusive employment practices of employers, we offer a broad range of information about employment law issues in our employment blog.

Must An Employee Be Pregnant When Fired To Be Protected From Pregnancy Discrimination?

Young pregnant woman working in the office

Having represented employment discrimination victims for more than two decades, our Alachua County, Florida pregnancy discrimination lawyers know that a common employment discrimination law myth is that only women who are pregnant when terminated are protected against pregnancy discrimination. Under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), women are protected from discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Thus, as observed by the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut in Conales v. Schick Mfg., Inc., 2011 WL 4345006 (D. Conn. Sept. 15, 2011), the “PDA applies to women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions—not just to women who are pregnant.” Consequently, the PDA makes clear that a woman does not have to be pregnant at the time she suffered an adverse employment action to fall within the PDA’s protection.

The expansive scope of protection afforded by the PDA means that women are protected from discriminatory employment decisions in a broad array of circumstances. For example, women who are pregnant at or very near the time of the adverse employment action are protected by the PDA. Likewise, women who are on maternity leave or recently have returned to work from maternity leave when the adverse employment action occurs are protected by the PDA. Similarly, women affected by a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth at or very near the time of the adverse employment action are protected by the PDA. In this article, our Gainesville, Florida pregnancy discrimination lawyers explain how the decision by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Briggs v. Women in Need, Inc., 819 F.Supp.2d 119 (E.D. N.Y. 2011) illustrates the expansive scope of protection afforded by the PDA to pregnant employees.

Employee Claims Fired Because Of Pregnancy

In that case, Alicia Briggs (Briggs) brought a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit against her former employer, Women in Need, Inc. (WIN), pursuant to the PDA. Briggs claims that WIN violated the PDA by firing her because of a medical condition related to her pregnancy. Briggs worked for WIN, a non-profit corporation, at its office in Brooklyn, New York. Briggs informed WIN about her pregnancy in March 2007. On May 23, 2007, Briggs went on medical leave due to her high-risk pregnancy. Briggs gave birth by cesarean section on October 19, 2007.

At some point either just before or during Briggs’ medical leave, a human resources representative named McLaughlin promised Briggs her desired morning shift upon her return to work. On December 11, 2007, at her six-week check-up, Briggs’ doctor informed her that she could return to work on January 21, 2008 to ensure the wound from the cesarean section had time to heal properly. Briggs then spoke with McLaughlin to inform her of the doctor’s orders, and to reiterate her desire for the morning shift. McLaughlin told Briggs that her request for the morning shift was denied.

Briggs claims that after being denied the morning shift, she spoke with another human resources official named Milona who informed Briggs that she had been fired. Briggs alleges that when she asked the reason for her termination, Milona responded, “so what, your fired. I’m the boss and I make those decisions.” According to WIN, after Brigges was denied her request for the morning shift, Briggs “would not agree to work her assigned schedule” and was accordingly terminated.

Broad Protection Against Pregnancy Discrimination

WIN filed a motion with the trial court seeking dismissal of Briggs’ pregnancy discrimination claim. In doing so, WIN argued that Briggs was not protected from pregnancy discrimination by the PDA because she was not pregnant when her employment was terminated. Thus, according to WIN, only women who are pregnant when fired are protected from pregnancy discrimination by the PDA. The trial court denied WIN’s motion for dismissal and ruled that Briggs was protected from pregnancy discrimination by the PDA even though she was not pregnant at the time of her termination.

In denying WIN’s motion for dismissal, the trial court explained that the PDA “is meant to protect against discrimination before, during, and after a woman’s pregnancy.” In applying this principle, the trial court observed, “courts have found that an employee terminated while pregnant, on maternity leave, or soon after returning from maternity leave,” are individuals protected from discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions by the PDA. Noting that “the time at which [a woman] ceases being affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions depends on the facts and circumstances of the case,” the trial court then turned to the issue of whether Briggs’ allegations were sufficient to bring her within the scope of the PDA’s protection.

The trial court pointed out that Briggs was fired “on some date between November 28, 2007 and January 21, 2008,” and that Briggs gave birth on October 19, 2007 and continued to recover from her cesarean section until her doctor cleared her to return to work on January 21, 2008. Thus, the trial court observed that Briggs was fired “while she was recovering from her cesarean section, a medical condition related to her pregnancy.” Consequently, the trial court concluded that although Briggs was not pregnant “at the time of her termination, there is sufficiently close temporal proximity between her childbirth and related medical condition and her termination” to make her a member of the class of individuals protected from discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions by the PDA.

Consult With Gainesville Discrimination Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, our Alachua County, Florida pregnancy discrimination attorneys have been litigating pregnancy discrimination cases for more than twenty years. If you have been discriminated against on the basis of pregnancy or have questions about your employee rights while pregnant, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Gainesville, Florida pregnancy discrimination lawyers. Our employee rights law firm takes employment 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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