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A New Jersey Court Allows a Worker to Sue Both Her Employer and the Entity that Provided ‘Human Resources Support’ for Pregnancy Discrimination

Earlier this fall, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s relatively brief stint as a New Jersey educator became a “hot” topic in the news, especially in relation to the issue of pregnancy discrimination. According to Sen. Warren, her employment as a speech pathologist in Morris County ended in June 1971 when her principal told her she would not be returning in the fall. Warren was six months pregnant at the time.

One might like to think that we’ve moved past the point of employers thinking that, simply because a woman becomes pregnant, that her pregnancy makes her physically feeble, emotionally unstable or otherwise incapable of doing her job. Or that, just because a woman is “showing,” she should not be seen in a workplace. Unfortunately, in too many situations, you’d be wrong to think that. Fortunately, there are laws in New Jersey to protect workers harmed by pregnancy discrimination. If you’re been victimized by this kind of mistreatment, be sure to sure reach out to an experienced New Jersey pregnancy discrimination attorney without delay to discover what legal options may be available to you.

S.P. was a woman who allegedly faced this kind of harm at work. According S.P.’s court documents (Essex County Superior Court Law Division Docket No. L-296-19), a few weeks after she began working for a dermatological medical practice, she told her employer that she was pregnant.

As the pregnancy advanced and S.P.’s condition evolved, the employee found it necessary to ask for an accommodation with regard to her workplace duties. Allegedly, the employer took no steps to engage S.P. in any kind of accommodation-related dialogue or make any kind of accommodation.

During her third trimester, S.P. experienced pregnancy complications and again asked for leave. The employer allegedly told her she could have two weeks, but if she didn’t return within two weeks’ time, it would fill her position. S.P. wasn’t able to return that quickly and was terminated. S.P. sued, asserting that the employer committed violations of the Law Against Discrimination by discriminating against her based on her pregnancy.

When you may have an employer and a “co-employer,’ and can sue both of them

In many situations, the option available to an employee who has been the victim of discrimination is simply to sue her direct employer. However, there are some situations in which one’s employment structure may not be so clear, and it may present the opportunity to include other defendants who qualify under the law as your “co-employers.”

That was the circumstance with S.P. She sued both the medical practice and a human resources services company. The HR company had a contract to provide “human resources support” services to the dermatology practice and that, the employee contended, made both entities liable for the pregnancy discrimination harm she’d suffered.

The trial judge in S.P.’s case allowed her to proceed against both entities. The court concluded that the woman had made a sufficient showing in her court filings and arguments to pursue additional discovery about the HR company’s role in the decision-making processes related to S.P.’s employment and her pregnancy.

Even though the HR company’s contract with the medical practice had ended before S.P. asked for her accommodation, the HR company could have already provided certain information and expressed certain opinions and positions that had an effect on the decisions ultimately made about S.P. If the employee could prove that, then she could potentially win her case against both entities and hold both liable for pregnancy discrimination as employer and co-employer.

If you’ve been fired because of your pregnancy, you may feel scared, nervous, angry, frustrated or many other feelings. Don’t, however, feel that you have to deal with your discrimination case alone. Reach out to the knowledgeable New Jersey pregnancy discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates for the legal help you need. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation and to find out how our experienced attorneys can help you.

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