Pregnancy Discrimination Lawyer Answers: What if the reason I don’t get hired is because I’m pregnant? What if an employer’s policy discriminates against pregnant women?
Employers are not allowed to base their decision on hiring a job applicant on whether or not the applicant is pregnant. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) protects individuals from being discriminated against because of pregnancy. Ohio law affords similar protections to pregnant women under Ohio R.C. § 4112.02(A), which makes it an unlawful, for, “any employer, because of the … sex … of any person, to discharge without just cause, to refuse to hire, or otherwise to discriminate against that person with respect to hire, tenure, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, or any matter directly or indirectly related to employment.” Additionally, R.C. § 4112.01(B) provides that: “For the purposes of divisions (A) to (F) of section 4112.02 of the Revised Code, the terms “because of sex” and “on the basis of sex” include, but are not limited to, because of or on the basis of pregnancy, any illness arising out of and occurring during the course of a pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.
Let’s look at a good example of what employers cannot do, taken from a local case. To start, it seems logical to assume that most people realize that some weight gain is part of any pregnancy. Some professionals advise that healthy weight gain in a pregnancy ranges between 11 and 40 pounds depending on the woman’s body type. Most people, including employers, are familiar with the old adage, “eating for two,” however, Weight Watchers considers any weight gain, even due to a pregnancy, to be inappropriate for new hirees in their workplace.
Case in point, Wendy Lamond-Boughton. In her case against the Weight Watchers organization, Boughton provided evidence that showed she was a lifetime member of Weight Watchers and used the program to help her reach and sustain weight goals, even after gaining weight during her first pregnancy. Boughton liked the Weight Watchers organization so much she decided to apply for a position with the company as a receptionist. Boughton knew that after a certain point in a pregnancy, the weight loss and weight maintenance program espoused by Weight Watchers is not recommended. What Boughton didn’t realize, is that Weight Watchers would not make any allowances for new hires in their policies that all employees must be inside of a weight goal range established by the company. According to Weight Watchers: “Broughton was unqualified or a position as a group leader or receptionist because she was five pounds above her goal eight at the time she sought employment.” The Court further held:
In this case, there is at a minimum a question of fact regarding whether the goal weight requirement, as applied to Broughton, was related to her ability to perform the job. WW concedes that had Broughton been at or below goal weight even though pregnant, she would have been eligible to be hired and would have been considered for a position, all other criteria such as lifetime membership, etc. being met. (Brozgold Dep. 50-51.) If hired, she would then have been covered by the staff goal weight policy governing pregnant staff, which would permit her to work as a group leader or receptionist, despite exceeding her goal weight and goal range, as long as her doctor felt it was medically appropriate. …
This testimony demonstrates that when the applicant goal weight policy is applied to a WW Lifetime Member like Broughton, whose above-goal weight at the time she applies is arguably attributable solely to her pregnancy weight gain, the goal weight policy is entirely unrelated to the “legal, moral and ethical reasons” espoused by WW as the basis for requiring applicants to be at goal weight.
Where Weight Watchers went wrong, is by allowing their current employees to be outside of their weight goals during pregnancy, and refusing to make a similar allowance for a job applicant. In doing so, they lost the ability to argue that it could not reasonably accommodate a new hire’s pregnancy weight, because it was already giving the accommodation to current employees.
If you are facing discrimination or harassment simply because you are pregnant, protect your legal rights — call the right attorney. Employers cannot harass, fire, wrongfully terminate, discriminate against, demote, or wrongfully discipline a female employee just because she got pregnant. When you call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential initial consultation at (216) 291-4744, you will meet with an attorney from The Spitz Law Firm to discuss wrongful discrimination claims and help you determine the best way to pursue your gender/sex discrimination claims. Our pregnancy discrimination lawyers know your rights and will fight to protect them.
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