In 2014, New Jersey enacted the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. That law expanded anti-discrimination protections for women who are pregnant, may become pregnant, or have a pregnancy-related medical condition. The law recognized that women who have recently added to their families or are seeking to add to their families are a particularly vulnerable group in the workplace when it comes to discrimination. The law’s protections include not just pregnancy but also pregnancy-related medical conditions. Thus, if you have been fired from your job because of a medical condition tied to pregnancy, you should reach out promptly to an experienced New Jersey pregnancy discrimination attorney, since you may have a discrimination case against your employer.
If you are familiar at all with the laws prohibiting discrimination based on pregnancy, you probably can identify certain types of employment actions that are wrongful. Certainly, proof of an employer’s firing a satisfactory employee almost immediately after she discloses her pregnancy will be suspicious. Evidence of an employer’s refusal to hire a woman because she disclosed that she was trying to become pregnant or was contemplating growing her family could also give that woman a possible discrimination case.
However, what about actions that are less blatant? For example, many women suffer varying degrees of medical problems that are inherently connected to their pregnancies. These might include severe and debilitating nausea, preeclampsia, and gestational diabetes during the pregnancy and post-partum depression after giving birth. There are also many women who experience “high-risk” pregnancies either because they are carrying multiple babies or because they have pre-existing medical issues that make their pregnancies more complicated than those of other women.
The law says that, if you experience a disabling condition that is tied to your pregnancy, your employer must make efforts to provide a reasonable accommodation, just as it would for a non-pregnant employee with disabilities.
The proof you need for a ‘related medical condition’ pregnancy discrimination case
Thus, if you are a pregnant woman who got fired wrongfully, what does the law require in order to sue? A case from last year is illustrative of how the process works. The employee, Sandra, was a medical technician working in a doctors’ office. Sandra became pregnant, and, due to her hypothyroidism, hers was a “high-risk” pregnancy.
One day at work, one of the doctors ordered her to clean the office’s floor-to-ceiling windows. This task would have required the 5’1” technician to climb a ladder to complete. She’d never been ordered to clean windows before, and none of her non-pregnant co-workers had ever been ordered to clean them. Due to her high-risk pregnancy and the necessity of climbing a ladder, she refused. The doctor fired her, allegedly for “insubordination.”
The Appellate Division court concluded that Sandra could take her pregnancy discrimination case to trial. The technician had several pieces of evidence that are vital to a viable claim for discrimination based upon a pregnancy-related condition. She had evidence that, at her place of employment, washing windows was not within the job responsibilities of a medical technician. She also offered proof that the employer had never asked any non-pregnant employee to clean windows.
Other forms of evidence that can help you include proof that tends to show that your employer had a discriminatory motive. In Sandra’s case, the window-washing confrontation and termination took place shortly after she allegedly caught them whispering about how the technician, given her high-risk pregnancy, was a “liability.” Derogatory comments like these help strengthen the argument that insubordination wasn’t the real reason for the termination but was just a pretext for the real goal of firing a pregnant employee whom the employer considered a liability.
Additionally, Sandra had another form of evidence that further bolstered her case. She had never had any discipline at work but got fired for insubordination for calmly and professionally refusing to do the windows. Another employee had a history of arguing loudly with the doctor who fired Sandra, including yelling at him to “shut up.” That employee was not fired or disciplined at all for “insubordination.” This type of proof can be very important because it further strengthens the employee’s argument that the employer’s stated reason for action was inauthentic and just a pretext for discrimination.
Women can suffer from pregnancy discrimination at work for many different reasons. Whether you have been terminated simply because you were pregnant or because you experienced a medical problem tied to your pregnancy, you may be entitled to compensation. The experienced New Jersey discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates have been working diligently to represent pregnant women and new moms who have suffered from discrimination at work. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation and to find out how we can help you.
More blog posts:
What Are My Rights in New Jersey If I’ve Been Fired for Being Pregnant (or for a Condition Related to My Pregnancy)?, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, April 20, 2018
New Law Extends New Jersey Law Against Discrimination’s Workplace Protections to Breastfeeding Mothers, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, Jan. 12, 2018
Fired Five Days After Disclosing Pregnancy, Medical Technician Allowed to Proceed in New Jersey Discrimination Case, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, Aug. 22, 2017