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Fired Five Days After Disclosing Pregnancy, Medical Technician Allowed to Proceed in New Jersey Discrimination Case

Thirty-nine years ago this fall, President Jimmy Carter signed into law the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Thirty-six years later, Governor Chris Christie signed into law New Jersey’s Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which added pregnancy discrimination to the list of illegal forms of discrimination under the Law Against Discrimination. Despite all of these advances in statutory laws, though, pregnancy discrimination still occurs, unfortunately. One of the keys, if you think your employer has discriminated against you based upon your pregnancy, is to contact experienced New Jersey discrimination counsel right away. One North Jersey expectant mom did exactly that and, based upon a recent ruling by the Appellate Division, will be able to take her discrimination case to trial.

The pregnant woman was a medical technician at a clinic in Union County. The end of her employment, as described in her complaint, was an unfortunately common scenario. In late July 2014, she notified her employer that she was pregnant, and hers was a high-risk pregnancy. Less than one week later, one of the doctors who ran the clinic ordered her to wash the second-floor windows. In her first 18 months, the technician had received exactly zero directives to clean windows. Allegedly thinking that the doctor was joking, the technician responded, “I don’t do windows.”

The same doctor issued the same command twice more that day. Allegedly, the technician refused each time because, at her diminutive height, cleaning the floor-to-ceiling windows would’ve meant climbing a ladder, which can be very unhealthy for women with high-risk pregnancies. After the third refusal, the doctor fired her.

The technician sued for pregnancy discrimination. In addition to the potentially suspect timing of her termination (coming so soon after she disclosed her pregnancy), there was also an alleged conversation between the doctors (and overheard by the plaintiff) in which one said, “I don’t care, she’s a liability,” which further raised the appearance that the doctors plotted her termination because of her high-risk pregnancy.

Although the trial court originally granted summary judgment in favor of the employer, the Appellate Division reversed and allowed the case to proceed. There were a few elements that were essential to her success. One related to the request itself. In 18 months, no one had ever asked the plaintiff to wash windows. The technician also had evidence indicating that no other office employees had ever been ordered to do the windows either. This bolstered the employee’s argument that, not only had the doctor ordered her to do something he’d never asked a non-pregnant employee to do, but also he’d ordered her to do something outside the scope of her employment, which raised a viable inference that the doctor acted based upon a discriminatory motive.

Another important part of the plaintiff’s case was the employer’s alleged non-discriminatory basis for termination:  insubordination. In 18 months on the job, the plaintiff had incurred zero disciplinary issues, but she was terminated over one day’s dispute about window-washing. By contrast, another non-pregnant employee allegedly argued frequently and vehemently with the doctors, including telling one to “shut up,” but was never disciplined by the employer for insubordination.

All of this, when put together, made the technician’s case a viable one with regard to pregnancy discrimination and allowed her to proceed to trial.

If you believe you’ve suffered from pregnancy discrimination or some other form of discrimination at work, it is important not to wait but to talk to a knowledgeable attorney right away. Contact the skilled New Jersey pregnancy discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates. Our team has been assisting workers with their legal needs in both state and federal courts for many years. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation with one of our skilled and experienced attorneys to find out how we can help you pursue the outcome you deserve.

More blog posts:

Regardless of Underlying Motives, New Jersey Employer Discriminated When it Revoked Pregnant Employee’s Promotion, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, June 21, 2017

Divorcing Rescue Squad Employee Allowed to Pursue Marital Status Discrimination Claim, New Jersey Supreme Court Says, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, April 20, 2017

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