Best Employment Lawyer Answers: What can I do if my manager harasses me for being pregnant? Can I be fired for being pregnant out of wedlock? What laws protect pregnant workers?
Yesterday, our employment attorneys blogged about pregnancy discrimination. (See Can My Job Use COVID As An Excuse To Fire Pregnant Workers?) We discussed that Pregnancy discrimination is a form of unlawful gender discrimination, which is unlawful under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (“PDA”) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Under these laws, employers cannot treat women differently because they are pregnant, might become pregnant, or were pregnant. This applies to all aspects of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, hours, shift assignments, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, and benefits. Our lawyers further explained that after the birth of a child, parents – both mothers and fathers – are entitled to 12 weeks of job protected time off if the employee qualifies under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). (See (See Top FMLA Lawyer Reply: Am I Eligible For Medical Leave From My Job?; What Hours Count Towards My FMLA Eligibility?).
However, in order to state a claim for pregnancy discrimination or violation of the FMLA, the retaliation that an employee faces does not always have to be directly related to the job. Unfortunately, we have an absolute horrible example of employer conduct to illustrate this point. Jocelyn Oajaca worked at a Dodge, Jeep and RAM dealership on Van Nuys Boulevard in Los Angeles, California, which coincidently owned by Lakers guard Russell Westbrook (who was not directly part of any alleged conduct). The dealership hired Oajaca in October 2018 and later promoted her to the role of business development center representative. During her employment Oajaca separated from her husband and receive support from work. However, when she revealed that she was pregnant, her bosses started began harassing. According to her lawsuit, those bosses very persistently told her that they disapproved of her continuing with her pregnancy to term because she was separated from her spouse. These supervisors even went so far as to offer to pay for the abortion and “generously” give her three whole days off to recover. One boss even suggested that she could “play if off” as a miscarriage.
When that did not work, the bosses gathered her coworkers, shared their displeasure with her pregnancy, and instructed those employees to further harass and intimidate Oajaca into having an abortion. I can only imagine that conversation, “Hey boys, we gotta do whatever it takes to make sure Jocelyn aborts that baby!” How sick!!!
And, when Oajaca still would not quit, the employer wrongfully fired her one month before she was due to give birth. Not only that but the employer also canceled her health insurance without notice so that she would have to pay for the childbirth out of pocket.
Clearly, wrongful termination is an adverse employment action that violates the PDA and Title VII, and well as most state laws, such as Ohio Revised Code § 4112.01, et al. (see What Is An Adverse Employment Action?). However, even without the termination, I would strongly argue that leveraging continued employment to convince an employee to abort a pregnancy would satisfy all requirements to allow a claim to move forward to a jury – who likely will have no empathy for the employer in this situation.
The employer apparently realized that it did not want to be in front of a jury either and settled the case for an undisclosed amount and the parties filed a dismissal with the Los Angeles Superior Court.
Way back when, as a young attorney, I never thought that I would have to provide legal advice that employers cannot force an employee to get an abortion as a condition of staying employed. But here we are, and unfortunately, given our law firm’s vast experience dealing with and fighting evil employers every day, I am not surprised.
If you are a pregnancy worker who is being discriminated against or harassed by your boss, manager, or the owner of you company, you are not alone — call the right attorney. Under federal and Ohio employment laws, it is illegal for your employer to harass, wrongfully fire, or discriminate on the basis of pregnancy. At Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, you will get a free and confidential initial consultation with an actual lawyer to discuss your potential wrongful discrimination claims and advise on your best course of action. Thus, it is best to call our attorneys in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Toledo, Youngtown, and Detroit as soon
We used the pregnancy discrimination and wrongful termination example above even though it is not case handled by Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm. Our lawyers do not blog about the settlements we get for our clients because of confidentiality requirements. The materials available at the top of this pregnancy blog page and on this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking “Can I be forced on leave when I am pregnancy”, “The owner of my company demoted me when I asked to take maternity leave”, or “How do I find the best wrongful termination lawyer near me”, your best option is to contact an attorney to obtain advice with respect to pregnancy discrimination questions or any particular employment law issue. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The employment law opinions expressed at or through this website are the opinions of the individual attorneys and may not reflect the opinions of The Spitz Law Firm, Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.