Pregnancy Discrimination Attorneys

PREGNANCY DISCRIMINATION

Pregnant employees’ legal rights are vigorously protected under various state and federal laws. This can place employers in a challenging position in terms of balancing regulatory compliance against protecting the best financial interests of the business. If your company requires advice in dealing with pregnant employees, employees disabled by pregnancy, or has been served with any type of pregnancy discrimination lawsuit, the employment law lawyers of Bellatrix PC can help.

pregnant woman

Our business attorneys are committed to providing employers with aggressive legal representation. We will thoroughly investigate the claim to see if it has merit and then develop defense strategies to defend your business. To start exploring your options in a confidential legal consultation, call Bellatrix PC at (800) 889-8376 today.

Is Your Business Compliant with the Pregnancy Discrimination Act?

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This act states that under Title VII, it is considered unlawful sex discrimination to discriminate against employees based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Female employees affected by pregnancy, or pregnancy-related conditions, must be treated in the same manner as other applicants or employees with similar abilities or limitations. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments.

A few common examples of pregnancy discrimination in employment include:

  • Refusing to hire or terminating a female employee because she is pregnant, or is considering becoming pregnant.
  • Terminating a female employee because she has taken pregnancy leave.
  • Denying a qualified female employee a promotion, or demoting her, because she is pregnant or is considering becoming pregnant.
  • Treating pregnancy in a manner differently than any other temporary illnesses or medical condition, including rights and benefits.

Title VII also makes it unlawful for employers to retaliate against employees who oppose discriminatory employment practices, or who wish to testify, file a discrimination complaint, or otherwise participate in any legal proceedings related to an alleged violation.

California Employer Regulations: the FMLA and CRFA

In addition to the considerable federal protections afforded by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, female employees are also protected on the state level by the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The provisions of the CFRA and FMLA apply to employers who have a minimum of 50 employees working within 75 miles of the office or worksite. Furthermore, the employee must have worked for the employer for a minimum of 12 consecutive or non-consecutive months, and must have also worked for no fewer than 1,250 hours during the past 12 months.

Under the provisions of the CFRA and FMLA, both male and female employees are permitted up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the purposes of adopting a child, fostering a child, or caring for a newborn baby. Upon return, female employees maintain the legal right to the same job, or a job on the same level which provides approximately equivalent benefits, pay, and terms and conditions pertaining to employment.

What to Do if Your Company is Being Sued

Charges of pregnancy-related sex discrimination come from a wide range of women holding entry-level jobs all the way up to senior executive positions. The number of these cases has increased in recent years, as more and more women wait to start a family until they have established careers.

In order to avoid or minimize the likelihood of becoming embroiled in an employee discrimination claim, employers must be highly vigilant in the way in which they deal with their female employees. Here are some simple tips to help reduce the chances of an employee taking legal action against your entity:

  • Document all personnel actions in writing.
  • Know the law. Be aware of whether or not the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and/or FMLA/CFRA apply to your business, and what sort of policies the relevant provisions mandate.
  • Develop and implement gender-neutral personnel policies.
  • Confirm that comprehensive benefits packages provide coverage for pregnancy-related issues.
  • Acquire adequate liability insurance.

It is also important for employers to be aware that discrimination claims by pregnant employees may be brought under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). FEHA claims can be couched as wrongful termination claims, retaliation claims, disability discrimination claims, gender discrimination claims, and more.

Under FEHA, women who become disabled by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions are eligible for up to four months of pregnancy disability leave. This leave can be taken as needed, and can be taken in addition to time taken off for bonding under the CFRA and/or FMLA. Furthermore, women disabled by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions are also eligible to receive accommodations from their employer, such as a less strenuous position during their disability.

If you are faced with an employee who needs accommodations for a pregnancy-related disability, you must engage in the interactive process with that employee and make your best efforts to work with them and their health care provider to find a reasonable accommodation for their situation. It is absolutely critical to properly document this process in writing.

Contact Our Employment Law Attorneys

If your business has been affected by an employee’s pregnancy, anticipated pregnancy, or a related medical condition, it is critically important to address the situation before litigation becomes necessary. If your entity needs assistance reviewing its proposed or current employee leave policies, or if an employee has already filed a lawsuit against your business, the experienced pregnancy discrimination lawyers of Bellatrix PC are here to help.

To arrange for a private case evaluation, call us today at (800) 449-8992. Our law offices are located in St. Louis, San Diego, and Riverside, CA.

Sexual Orientation Discrimination in Employment is Illegal

gay roostersMost people believe that it is illegal in all states for employers to discriminate based on sexual orientation. That is not exactly true, but there are many laws that do protect employees from harassment or discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identities. Where the confusion comes in is with state versus Federal laws, which employers are covered and what scenarios are covered.  Here is a basic outline:

  • Under Federal Law (Title VII) discrimination against anyone based on their sex or gender is prohibited. It is not strictly illegal to discriminate based on one’s status as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. But, to the extent that those statuses affect sex or gender identity, then Title VII prohibits discriminatory conduct. Title VII applies to all private employers with fifteen or more employees.
  • Thirty-two states have passed their own laws expressly prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination by government employers.
  • Twenty-two states have passed their own laws expressly making sexual orientation discrimination illegal by private employers (this is on top of Title VII’s various applications). These laws are more explicit and may apply to smaller businesses. For example, in California, any business with five or more employees may not discriminate based on sexual orientation.
  • Religious organizations continue to be exempt from sexual orientation discrimination laws, but non-profits are not exempt under any of the laws.

Confusion is also caused by language. Sex and gender discrimination are not precisely sexual orientation discrimination. By definition, sex discrimination is discrimination based on an individual’s biological identity as male or female. Gender discrimination is discrimination based on characteristics of an individual that are culturally associated with “masculinity” or “femininity.” Sexual Orientation discrimination is based on the characteristics of being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or transsexual. Gender discrimination can occur when persons who are transgender, transsexual, or consider themselves some other gender altogether, suffer hostile work environment or adverse actions related to their gender. Sex discrimination can occur when a gay man or a lesbian woman is subject to harassment because of their failure to adhere to traditional sex roles or when they are sexually harassed.

A few examples of possible sexual orientation discrimination include:

  • An employer refuses to interview or hire a potential employee because he or she is openly gay.
  • An employer passes on a homosexual male employee for a promotion that he is as qualified for as another heterosexual employee, because he is homosexual.
  • A sales manager has a dinner party, including spouses, at his house and invites everyone on his sales team, except for a female co-worker, because she has a same-sex partner.
  • A male employee was laid off due to wearing female clothing to work, even though he identifies as a woman.
  • A gay man is teased by co-workers and the butt of sexual jokes based on his effeminate personal traits.
  • A gay man is fired for adopting a child with his partner.

LGBT intolerance and discrimination is quickly becoming outmoded and socially unacceptable in the Western world. The laws on gay marriage are already at a tipping point, which means that it will be recognized everywhere soon (which affects employer-provided benefits). Sexual orientation discrimination is becoming expressly illegal, to keep up with popular beliefs as well as practical legal applications of already existing laws. The point is: employers must make sure that they adapt their anti-discrimination safeguards to protect against sexual orientation discrimination in hiring, firing, promotion, pay, benefits and social work environment. Anything less is bad business and risky.

To schedule a consultation with the employment law attorneys of Bellatrix PC, call (800) 449-8992.

When to Use Severance Agreements When Terminating Employees

employee agreementIn the United States, in all states except Montana, employment is generally presumed to be at-will. When employment is at-will, employers are not required to give severance to employees whom they terminate. This is the rule; but of course there are exceptions. For example, if the employee has a contract (typical with high level executives) or is part of a union, then a severance package might be previously agreed upon and mandatory.

Severance agreements are also commonly referred to as “golden parachutes” or “waiver and separation agreements,” since the employee is given a certain amount of unearned money, usually in return for signing a release agreement. That release can sometimes be worth the price, even when severance is not mandatory. Consider:

  1. Will A Severance Agreement Avoid Disruptions Caused by the Departing Employee? Presenting potentially disruptive employees with a severance package upon termination will likely make him or her more amicable during the termination process, reducing stress and potential problems for employer.
  2. Does the Employee Have a Good Claim Against the Employer for Violations of Employment or Wage Laws? If so, it may be best to settle this at the outset, rather than risk litigation.
  3. Are You Worried About a Negative Impact on the Business’s Goodwill?– An employer may offer an employee a severance agreement so they, or other remaining employees, have a positive association with the business. This will reduce the “bad feelings (and disparagement) within the terminated employees and those who are left behind.
  4. Was the Employee a Long Term and Loyal Employee? Sometimes a severance is just the right thing to do for a long term, loyal employee who is simply no longer needed at the business. It is somewhat common to soften the blow to terminated employees who have worked for an employer for a number of years with a severance agreement. This arrangement will help provide financial support until the employee finds a new job. A broad rule of thumb is to provide one week’s severance pay for every year the employee worked with the company.

•After deciding whether you wish to provide severance to an employee, you should contact an attorney to discuss the mandatory provisions.  Employee release agreements are frequently struck down as unenforceable by courts when they are not well-drafted by an employment law specialist.  Things like non-compete provisions, non-disparagement provisions, or failure to provide mandatory revocation and cooling-off periods, for example, can result in a useless release — or worse, liability for violating certain Labor Laws in your agreements. Further, wages that are admittedly owed cannot be released.  Employers should use counsel. It is not a good idea to just grab a sample off the internet.