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Monday, October 17, 2016

Pregnancy Discrimination Claims Are on the Rise; School Teachers Not Immune to Pregnancy Discrimination

As reported in the press and according US government statistics, the filing of Pregnancy Discrimination claims are on the rise. Some may like to believe that public school teachers may be immune to this type of discrimination, as they are dedicated to caring for children, but such is not the case. This Law Office has litigated these types of pregnancy cases, both in Federal and State Court and obtained successful monetary results for clients.

The fight to end discrimination against women in the workplace in New Jersey is far from over, and women who plan to have children or become pregnant remain vulnerable. A recent case out of Asbury Park illustrates how pregnancy discrimination is still a problem. The Board of Education recently settled a lawsuit brought by a woman who was discriminated against and subsequently fired after notifying the district she was pregnant. This case is similar to cases where the victims of pregnancy discrimination were represented by this Law Office, both against public and private employers, including one against a Board of Education in Bergen County, New Jersey, filed by this Law Office on behalf of a pregnant special education teacher, for whom this Law Office was successful in recovering money.

Pregnancy Discrimination at a Glance

Pregnancy discrimination occurs when a female employee or job applicant is treated unfairly because of pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition. There are federal and state laws, however, designed to protect women from this form of discrimination. 

First, the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) prohibits employers from discriminating against pregnant women regarding any employment decision, including hiring, firing, compensation, job assignments, and any other terms and conditions of employment.  Pregnant women who are temporarily unable to perform their jobs must also be treated no differently than other temporarily disabled workers.

In addition, the PDA prohibits employers, supervisors, and coworkers from harassing women because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. It is illegal to create a hostile work environment or take adverse employment actions such as demoting or terminating a pregnant employee.

Further, in New Jersey, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) which amended the Law Against Discrimination, goes a step further to protect women who are pregnant, have given birth or suffer a related medical condition. In short, employers who know or should know a worker is pregnant can be held liable for treating that individual less favorably than other workers. 

Lastly, women who suffer a medical condition related to their pregnancy, or are temporarily partially disabled, may also be protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Fortunately for pregnancy discrimination Plaintiffs in New Jersey, they do not have to exhaust tedious administrative ADA filings before they can file a lawsuit, and they do not have to file administratively and exhaust PDA remedies before they file in court. In New Jersey, pregnancy discrimination plaintiffs can file lawsuits sooner and directly in State Superior Court, under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination

The Asbury Park Case

More recently in July of 2016, the Asbury Park Board of Education settled a pregnancy discrimination case filed by a teacher. 

This recent lawsuit against the Asbury Park Board of Education revealed pregnancy discrimination violations by the Board on a number of levels. The employee claimed she was denied a transfer and unfairly disciplined due to her pregnancy. Prior to informing the district of her status, she received very favorable evaluations for her role as a Jobs for America graduates specialist.  

Initially hired in 2011, she was recommended for reappointment at the end of the 2012 term. Things started to change after she notified the district of her pregnancy in May 2012. By July she began receiving emails criticizing her performance. She was then assigned to an alternative school for students with behavioral and disciplinary issues. Because of a history of miscarriages, her doctors determined her pregnancy was high risk, so she asked to be reassigned and for other accommodations. The board refused to reassign her, and followed that up with a series of disciplinary actions including letters of reprimand - while other employees were not subjected to these measures. 

Finally, she was informed by the Board during her maternity leave that she would not be reappointed to the position.  In sum, the lawsuit claimed the Asbury Park Board of Education treated this worker unfairly, reassigned her inappropriately,  subjected her to unwarranted disciplinary actions, and ultimately terminated her. In the end, the Board settled the case for $50,000. 

The Takeaway

While this case highlights how pregnancy discrimination remains a problem in both the private and public sector, and that no category of employment, including for those in professional occupations, renders them immune from this type of illegal discrimination, every situation is fact specific. 

What You Can Do

If  you believe you were the target of pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, or feel your employer may have discriminated against you because of your pregnancy,  treated you unfairly because of pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition, resulting in termination or a refusal to rehire, it is important to consult with an aggressive and experienced employment attorney. If you complained about such discrimination and your employer then retaliated against you, you may also have a claim for retaliation. If you believe you are being subjected to such unlawful workplace discrimination or retaliation, please contact Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law today for a free consultation.

Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law serves clients throughout New Jersey, including Bergen, Middlesex, Essex, Hudson, Monmouth, Ocean, Union, Camden, Passaic, and Morris Counties with locations in Central, Western and Northern NJ to meet with clients

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