FMLA Pregnancy Discrimination at work
What would you do if top management came to you with a proposed personnel action that you knew to be discriminatory? Would you take it to the mat if necessary?
It’s a ticklish situation. And the fallout can be severe, as illustrated by a recent case in South Dakota.A dental clinic hired an employee who told her manager days later that she was pregnant. Realizing the woman would be on maternity leave during the busy summer season, the CEO decided to fire her.
The person who handled HR, the business manager, advised the CEO that he couldn’t legally do this. But the exec went ahead anyway.
When the employee sued for pregnancy discrimination, she won $15,000-plus. Even more damaging, she got an appeals court to agree that she should receive punitive damages – which could run as high as six figures.They knew it was wrong
The court focused on the fact that a decision-maker – the business manager – knew the firing was illegal, but the organization went ahead anyway.The lesson for HR? Because you know the law, you have a heavy responsibility to make sure others follow it. If you don’t, the consequences could be worse than if you were just plain ignorant.
Cite: EEOC v. Siouxland Oral Maxillofacial Surgery, Nos. 07-2419/07-2420, 8th Cir., 8/27/09.