New Providence, NJ (July 10, 2019) — Employers are learning the hard way that those that violate pregnancy discrimination and accommodation laws may be hit with lawsuits which could end up extremely costly in terms of time, money and resources, and cause tremendous damage to employee morale and the employer’s public image, according to a new XpertHR report.
Making negative comments, involuntarily reassigning an employee based on health and safety concerns, refusing to hire a pregnant employee and failing to provide a reasonable pregnancy or lactation accommodation all may constitute unlawful conduct for which an employer may be held liable.
“When employees or applicants announce that they are expecting a baby, what will bring a bundle of joy to them may create a whole host of issues for the employer,” says Beth Zoller, JD, Legal Editor, XpertHR.
In its new report, XpertHR identifies 6 ways employers go wrong:
- Failing to Hire or Promote a Pregnant Employee or New Mother
An employer may have doubts or concerns about a pregnant employee’s continued ability to work and the potential economic impact or disruption to the workplace. However, failure to hire a pregnant worker or new mother may also result in liability for the employer.
Questions to avoid asking an applicant include:
- Whether and when she intends to have children;
- How she will manage working during her pregnancy; and
- How she will juggle the demands of the job with the demands of being a new mother.
- Taking Adverse Action Against a Pregnant Employee
Taking adverse action against an employee such as termination, demotion or a unilateral change in job duties, in response to an employee’s pregnancy, because she has requested an accommodation or because she has complained of retaliation by a supervisor or co-workers is blatantly illegal and a clear violation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
- Denying Leave or Compelling Leave
The decision to take leave during or after pregnancy is the employee’s and the employee’s alone to make. However, an employer may not require a pregnant employee to take leave from her job for pregnancy-related reasons as long as she can perform her job. In addition, an employer may not refuse to provide leave as an accommodation and then terminate an employee when she is unable to return to work at the end of her leave.
- Failing to Provide Reasonable Accommodations
It is critical for an employer to take all pregnancy-related accommodation requests seriously in order to reduce the risk of a complaint or a lawsuit. Employers providing light-duty positions to employees injured on the job must provide the same light-duty work to pregnant employees who are similarly unable to work.
- Stereotyping and Making Assumptions
It is essential to avoid treating pregnant women differently based on stereotypes about their ability or inability to work and perform their jobs and assumptions about their job capabilities or commitment. Avoid steering pregnant or caregiving employees into lower paid and less prestigious positions with less opportunity for advancement.
- Harassing a Pregnant Employee
Harassment of pregnant employees is against the law. Offensive jokes, stories, insults, threats and intimidation that interferes with a pregnant worker’s ability to do her job may create a hostile work environment.
To view the full report on Pregnancy Discrimination and Accommodation, visit XpertHR.
XpertHR helps build successful workforces by providing practical tools, expert resources and agile HR solutions at the federal, state and municipal level to help businesses stay a step ahead.
Editor’s Note: Beth Zoller, JD, Legal Editor, XpertHR is available for interview and to provide an article on pregnancy discrimination. If you use any of this material, please include a link to https://bit.ly/2YvdZAR.