Pregnancy Discrimination

Pregnancy discrimination does happen in the workplaces of San Antonio. Federal law and Texas law provides protections to members of a “protected class” against discrimination in the workplace. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal law that prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, and religion. It generally applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including federal, state, and local governments. Title VII also applies to private and public colleges and universities, employment agencies, and labor organizations. Some of the “protected classes” established by Title VII are sex, age, disability, national origin, religion (and many others). Title VII has been construed to protect employees from discrimination based on pregnancy.

Prohibited Conduct: Employer Cannot Discriminate Against Pregnant Woman in Hiring and Firing. An employer may not fire, or refuse to hire, a pregnant woman because of her pregnancy, because of a pregnancy-related condition, or because of the prejudices of co-workers, clients, or customers 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-(k) . An employer also may not maintain a policy that adversely affects pregnant employees. While employers have the right to restructure jobs and responsibilities, they cannot use that right to target a pregnant employee for adverse action. An employee can show discrimination by showing the elimination of her position, or demotion, during pregnancy or maternity leave was made to displace her for impermissible reasons. See Quaratino v. Tiffany & Co., 71 F.3d 58, 65 (2d Cir. 1995) .

Prohibited Conduct: Employer Must Treat Pregnant Employee the Same. If an employee is temporarily unable to perform her job due to pregnancy, the employer must treat her the same as it treats other employees “similar in their ability or inability to do work.” See Young v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 135 S. Ct. 1338, 1353-54 (2015). For example, if a male or not-pregnant female employee with a back injury is not required to do heavy lifting while so disabled, or is granted leave for that time, the employer must provide the same accommodation to a pregnant employee for the time in which she is disabled due to pregnancy and childbirth. Without showing a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ), an employer also may not require that a pregnant worker take leave until her child is born, or for a predetermined time thereafter, provided she is able to perform her job. Cleveland Board of Educ. v. LaFleur, 414 U.S. 632 (1974) (public employer); Carney v. Martin Luther Home, Inc., 824 F.2d 643 (8th Cir. 1987).

Prohibited Conduct: Wages, Seniority and Benefits Must be Equal with Non-Pregnant Persons. Benefits, seniority and other benefits and privileges for pregnant workers must accrue according to the same terms and conditions according to which they accrue for other people with temporary disabilities. 29 C.F.R. § 1604 . Any health insurance provided by an employer must cover pregnancy-related expenses on the same basis as costs for other medical conditions. Pregnancy-related medical benefits cannot be limited to married employees. See EEOC Questions and Answers on the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, No. 13, 29 C.F.R. § 1604 app . The PDA provides protection not only to female employees on a company’s payroll, but also for the spouses of male employees: if it includes employees’ spouses, an employer’s health benefit plan must provide equal pregnancy coverage to female employees and to the spouses of male employees. Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co. v. EEOC, 462 U.S. 669 (1983).

Remedies for Employment Discrimination. Whenever discrimination is found, the goal of the law is to put the victim of discrimination in the same position (or nearly the same) that he or she would have been if the discrimination had never occurred. The types of relief will depend upon the discriminatory action and the effect it had on the victim. For example, if someone is not selected for a job or a promotion because of discrimination, the remedy may include placement in the job and/or back pay and benefits the person would have received. The employer also will be required to stop any discriminatory practices and take steps to prevent discrimination in the future. A victim of discrimination also may be able to recover attorney's fees, expert witness fees, and court costs.

Evidentiary Considerations. As in most employment law claims, these cases are “she said, he said” type cases and therefore documenting everything that occurs is very important. You are encouraged to keep a diary or journal of what is going on at work as well as keeping copies of all correspondence to and from your employer (written complaints to the HR department, emails to and from your supervisor and/or coworkers, and any other relevant documents). If you are in San Antonio, or within the state of Texas, you can also make audio recordings of conversations without the other parties’ consent or knowledge as long as you are in the same room as the recording device. See this resource for the legalities of audio recordings in Texas.

Remedies May Include Compensatory & Punitive Damages. Compensatory and punitive damages may be awarded in cases involving intentional discrimination based on a person's race, color, national origin, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), religion, disability, or genetic information.

Compensatory damages pay victims for out-of-pocket expenses caused by the discrimination (such as costs associated with a job search or medical expenses) and compensate them for any emotional harm suffered (such as mental anguish, inconvenience, or loss of enjoyment of life).

Punitive damages may be awarded to punish an employer who has committed an especially malicious or reckless act of discrimination.

Limits on Compensatory & Punitive Damages. There are limits on the amount of compensatory and punitive damages a person can recover. These limits vary depending on the size of the employer:

  • For employers with 15-100 employees, the limit is $50,000.
  • For employers with 101-200 employees, the limit is $100,000.
  • For employers with 201-500 employees, the limit is $200,000.
  • For employers with more than 500 employees, the limit is $300,000.

Age or Sex Discrimination & Liquidated Damages. In cases involving intentional age discrimination, or in cases involving intentional sex-based wage discrimination under the Equal Pay Act, victims cannot recover either compensatory or punitive damages, but may be entitled to "liquidated damages."

Liquidated damages may be awarded to punish an especially malicious or reckless act of discrimination. The amount of liquidated damages that may be awarded is equal to the amount of back pay awarded the victim.

Statute of Limitations. To preserve your claim under state law, you must file with the TWC-CRD (or cross-file with the EEOC) within 180 days of the date you believe you were discriminated against. To preserve your claim under federal law, you must file with the EEOC (or cross-file with the state agency) within 300 days of the date you believe you were discriminated against. However, as you might have other legal claims with shorter deadlines, do not wait to file your claim until your time limit is close to expiring. If you are a governmental employee with a discrimination claim, you should be sure to file a timely claim under Texas state law, because the state may have immunity from certain kinds of claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act .

Call us!

If you or a loved one has been subject to employment discrimination based on pregnancy, please contact the attorneys of Carabin & Shaw in San Antonio today. We offer free initial consultations and work on a contingent fee basis, which means that there is never a fee unless we successfully resolve your case. Our experienced San Antonio employment lawyers will know how to deal with the employment discrimination so you don’t have to.

For immediate assistance and to set up a free consultation with one of our experienced lawyers, call us toll-free at 1.800.862.1260.

The information provided on this site is not legal advice, does not constitute a lawyer referral service, and no attorney-client or confidential relationship is or will be formed by use of the site.

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