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"You've been on maternity leave for a while."

pregnancy discrimination

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) -- the federal agency responsible for enforcing employment discrimination laws -- recently resolved a case in which a manager said the above to Cassandra Crawford, as the reason she was not promoted and instead her less-qualified male colleague was.

According to the EEOC --

Cassandra Crawford worked in Dimension's patient financial services department in Cheverly, Md., for over seven years, and had two years of team lead experience managing several team members and performing various human resources tasks. Crawford was on maternity leave from January to April 2014.

In October 2014, Dimensions promoted a less-qualified male employee, who had less than two years of entry-level experience with the company and had previously been disciplined for attendance issues, to a manager position. EEOC charged that the associate vice president, Judy Selvage, told Crawford that Dimensions had considered promoting Crawford, but instead promoted the male employee because Crawford had been "on maternity leave for a while."

There was also evidence that the same manager demoted other women after they returned from maternity leave.

When initial negotiations to settle the case failed, the EEOC filed suit alleging that the employer violated federal anti-discrimination laws, particularly:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq., which prohibits various forms of employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and/or national origin.

  • The Pregnancy Discrimination Act ("PDA"), which was an amendment to Title VII and provides that "women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes . . . as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(k) .

Earlier this year, a federal district judge denied the employer's motion to throw out the case. The court found, among other things, that the manager's above statement "could be direct evidence of sex bias" under federal anti-discrimination laws, and the case was eligible to go to a jury.

The case settled several months later.

Doorways Employment Law is a virtual employment law practice, leveraging the power of technology to connect with clients in the most efficient, convenient and cost-effective way possible. It specializes in employment law counseling, strategic advice and representation to individuals and businesses across Massachusetts. Contact Doorways.

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