I Think I Was Fired for Being Pregnant. Can I Sue?
It’s a wonderful thing to bring a new life into the world, but some employers don’t give pregnant employees the respect and consideration they deserve. Certain misguided employers may treat pregnancy as a handicap — a detriment to the performance of one’s job duties, now or in the future. Fortunately for employees who are also mothers-to-be, it is against the law to terminate an employee because of pregnancy. If you believe you were fired for being pregnant, speak with an experienced pregnancy discrimination attorney. You may have a claim for damages against your employer.
You Cannot Be Fired for Being Pregnant Under the Law
As stated by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), it is a violation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) to discriminate against or harass an employee based on pregnancy in any aspect of employment. That includes hiring, pay, promotions, fringe benefits, training, job assignments, and firing, along with any other conditions of employment.
California law also prohibits discrimination or harassment against an employee because of pregnancy under the Fair Employment and Housing Act, as discussed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). Additionally, when it is requested, employers are required under California law to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees, such as light-duty, or alternative assignments.
Will I Have a Job to Go Back to after Pregnancy Disability Leave?
An employee in California who returns to work within a four-month period (17 1/3 weeks) from pregnancy disability leave has a guaranteed right to return to her same position. If that same position is no longer available for a valid reason, such as plant closure or layoff, the employer must reinstate the employee in a position that is comparable in terms of location, job content, promotional opportunities, and pay, unless no comparable position exists and the employer can prove that these facts are true.
Your employer may not refuse to give you your job back because of “performance deficiencies” discovered while you were out on leave. Nor is it permissible under the law for your employer to keep your replacement on instead of returning you to that position. In short, it is unlawful for your employer to “fire you” by making your job no longer available when you return from pregnancy disability leave.
Legal Help for California Employees Fired for Being Pregnant
If you have lost your job because of a pregnancy, your best course of action is to consult with an employment discrimination attorney as soon as possible. You may be entitled to file a claim for damages for the losses you have suffered, including:
Compensatory damages: This may include out-of-pocket expenses, past, present, and future lost wages, and emotional distress suffered as a result of the illegal actions of your employer.
Punitive damages: These damages are designed to punish your employer for willful wrongdoing. California juries have awarded substantial punitive damages in cases of pregnancy discrimination.
At Sessions & Kimball LLP, our practice is devoted exclusively to employee rights. Our Orange County pregnancy discrimination lawyers have prevailed in thousands of cases, in the settlement, arbitration, and litigation. We have recovered more than $100 million for our clients. If you think you were fired for being pregnant, contact us for a free consultation to find out if you have a case.