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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

I Am a NJ, Non-Tenured, Pregnant Teacher; Does My Employer Have Right to Not Renew My Contract, to Not Rehire Me for the Next Academic Year? Part I

Pregnant teachers in NJ are subject to the same anti-discrimination laws as are employees in other professions and this is true even when the pregnant teacher is non-tenured. Motherhood is foremost for the continuation of the species! Pregnant women should be protected and supported, not discriminated against!  I have successfully represented pregnant, non-tenured teachers whose contacts were not renewed and succeeded in recovering money for them.

Boards of Education have the right to decide which non-tenured employees’ contracts will be renewed and which will not be renewed. However, a decision to not renew cannot be based on an illegal reason. Pregnancy is a defined protected class pursuant to the New Jersey Pregnant Worker's Fairness Act (PWFA). The NJ Legislature added "pregnancy" to the protected list of classes under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A. 10:5-12 (l), in 2014, because legislatures found that pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to discrimination.

In a typical non-tenured teacher pregnancy discrimination case, the teacher, prior to informing her supervisors that she is pregnant, will receive good evaluations as to her performance. These may include acceptable and/or high scores based on different criteria, such as the teacher’s demonstrating knowledge of students, material content, pedagogy, setting instruction outcomes, knowledge of and application of resources, designing coherent instructions and student assessments. These evaluations also assess the teacher’s skills as to managing individuals and groups, students’ behavior including classroom procedure, establishing a successful culture for learning, communication and discussion techniques.

Write-ups by their supervisors as to their observations of the teacher’s abilities as result of both scheduled/announced and unannounced “walk-throughs” may be good, even glowing, prior to learning the employee is pregnant. 

However, once the teacher informs her supervisors that she is pregnant, the subsequent evaluations might suddenly become lower or even sub-standard. In these situations, the school administrators may be planning a “pre-text” for not rehiring the teacher, based on spurious assessments of the teacher’s abilities. Sometimes, not only the immediate supervisor may be part of this subterfuge, but also higher ranking administrators, who in an attempt to avoid a discrimination lawsuit, may actually direct those lower in rank to set up factitious evidence of the teacher’s alleged deficient skills.

After the teacher, who previously scored acceptable or high on her evaluations and observations of the “walk-throughs”, informs her superiors that she is pregnant, if there is subsequently a radical change in the teacher’s evaluations resulting in a downward scoring, it may be the administrators’ stratagem and evidence of pretext for discrimination.

In the course of a pregnancy lawsuit, a plaintiff’s attorney may demand numerous documents of the school, including all papers, files, emails, etc., containing the teacher’s name(s), that relate to the teacher’s pre- and post-pregnancy status. These documents sometimes demonstrate that the radical shift came only after her superiors were aware of her pregnancy. In some cases, the documents may reveal that a higher ranking administrator directed a lower ranking administrator to delete all evidence of the teacher’s evaluations and walk-though observations notes that were pre-pregnancy. When this happens, it is called “spoliation of evidence” and is a very serious charge against a defendant, and a court can order sanctions against the defendant. Not all such pregnancy cases have such clear cut smoking guns, but pregnant teachers should not despair that there may not be anything they can do if they are not rehired. Very often, part of the time they request off for pregnancy and related conditions overlaps with the summer break, and the interruption to the classes as to a change of teachers is minor and easy to accommodate, and the requested accommodations are not overly burdensome and relatively easy to implement.

Don’t Sit on Your Rights!

Motherhood is foremost for the continuation of the species! Pregnant women should be protected and supported, not discriminated against!  I have successfully represented pregnant, non-tenured teachers whose contacts were not renewed and succeeded in recovering money for them.

Termination when you are pregnant is exponentially harmful to the mother, the child and the family, because it comes at a time when the family’s economic needs are increased. If you believe you were the target of pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, or feel your employer 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 Southern, Central, and Northern NJ to meet with clients.


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