Back in September, a company that owns a chain of convenience stores agreed to a settlement of a pregnancy and disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the EEOC on behalf of 28 employees. The lawsuit charged company managers with giving pregnant employees less favorable tasks and shifts and making negative comments about their pregnancies (e.g., “You’re too pregnant to continue working,” “You are a liability,” “Had I known of your pregnancy, you would not have been hired,” and “Aren’t you ever going to quit having kids?”).
The EEOC also alleged that the company denied reasonable accommodations to employees with pregnancy-related disabilities and put them on involuntary unpaid leave. (The American With Disabilities Act protects employees and applicants with pregnancy-related disabilities.) Such accommodations would have included extended leave for pregnant employees on bed rest and modified shelf stocking methods for pregnant employees with lifting restrictions. The EEOC further alleged that the company fired pregnant employees when they exhausted their medical leave, without considering when they could return to work.
Lesson Learned: This case most likely was the result of inadequate training of managers at the store level. Regardless, a process should be in place that requires consultation with a well-oriented member of the company’s management, human resources and/or legal team when a pregnant employee makes a request for a job modification or accommodation because of a pregnancy-related limitation.