When a woman is fired because she is pregnant, it is against the law, not only in California, but throughout the nation. However, is it becoming harder for the allegation of pregnancy discrimination to stand up as a reason for a wrongful termination lawsuit? It may be.
California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act protects women from being discharged from their job for being pregnant. However, a woman who is pregnant must now prove that the “substantial motivating factor” in her firing was her pregnancy.
A recent case demonstrates this, at least to some degree. A woman went on maternity leave after she had her baby. She had had a few write-ups at work for disciplinary reasons before she went on leave. While she was off on leave, she visited the office where she worked. During the visit, there was an argument that became quite heated between several co-workers and her.
The woman returned to the office after her maternity leave had ended. After only three hours on the job, she was fired. The reason given was “performance issues.”
During a subsequent lawsuit, the woman was able to convince a jury that she was not fired for “performance issues,” as the employer claimed, but because she had gotten pregnant and taken maternity leave. Her employer appealed the jury’s verdict, though.
When the appeals court heard the case, it ruled that the lower court had erred, because it did not use the correct standard for damage or injury. This meant that in order to prove her case, the woman had to prove that her pregnancy was what led to her firing. A new trial was ordered.
When an employee is discriminated against for whatever reason, he or she has the right to seek compensation for a variety of claims, including back wages. Employers cannot fire a woman simply because she is pregnant; however, keeping detailed records to back up one’s claim in court could help win a verdict in an employee’s favor.