An employer settled claims it refused to accommodate a pregnant worker who then miscarried


“Miscarriages can be personally devastating. No one should have to choose between getting the pregnancy care they need and losing a job.”

That quote comes from a senior U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission trial attorney as part of a press release announcing a settlement of pregnancy and disability discrimination claims against an employer.

Candidly, I’ve grown numb to most of these press releases. Is it because I’m a soulless management-side employment lawyer? No, I prefer to think little surprises me in the workplace anymore. But this one gets files under “What the heck were they thinking?!?

Below are the allegations from the EEOC’s press release:

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, [the employer] violated federal law when one of its stores … refused to allow a pregnant employee with impairments to take emergency leave to seek medical attention, forcing her to quit. The pregnant customer sales associate, who had diabetes and hypoglycemia, experienced spotting at work and asked the store manager to allow her to take unscheduled emergency leave to seek medical attention.

Although the store manager and team lead could have covered for her, the store manager nonetheless told the customer sales associate that she could not leave until they found a replacement for her. They were unable to do so. The store manager told the customer sales associate that she had already asked for too many accommodations. The customer sales associate had no option but to resign so that she could seek immediate medical attention, per her doctor’s advice. She miscarried later that day, the EEOC said. 

If these allegations are true — and remember, they are just that, not necessarily facts — the employer violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy-related conditions. The employer would have also violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits disability discrimination — pregnancy is not a disability, but diabetes and hypoglycemia are. Both statutes also prohibit retaliation, including for making a reasonable accommodation request.

The EEOC filed this lawsuit in 2022 before the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act took effect. The PWFA requires a covered employer to provide a reasonable accommodation to a worker’s known limitation related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions unless the accommodation will cause the employer an undue hardship.

The case settled for $205,000. The company must also maintain and disseminate policies prohibiting pregnancy discrimination and retaliation, reissue anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation policies, and train employees and supervisors. The company will also regularly report to the EEOC regarding pregnancy or disability discrimination complaints it receives.

But if your business has to learn that same lesson, the company will be lucky to escape for only $205,000.

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