Buffalo Law Journal editor and reporter Michael Petro sought out Robert Boreanaz, a noted Buffalo labor and employment attorney, for commentary on the issue of pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.
Click here for the article.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) prevents employers from treating pregnant women differently than their peers, yet Mr. Petro notes that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and other agencies are receiving an increasing number of pregnancy discrimination complaints. The agencies are vigorously pursuing these claims.
“If an employer provides an alternate job assignment for someone with a temporary disability, such as a twisted ankle,” Mr. Boreanaz says, “then that employer is obligated to provide the same benefit to a pregnant employee or someone who just gave birth.”
Time off concerns employers
Because employers typically want to hire the most reliable employees, Mr. Boreanaz notes, most of the calls his firm receives are from mothers who claim they were let go due to time they took off to care for children, or they weren’t hired because of time off they may need due to pregnancy.
“Employers are always worried about reliable employees and employees showing up to work and not taking time off,” he says. “So I think probably the most frequent occasions of pregnancy discrimination happen because of the failure to hire a childbearing woman or a mother with young children because (employers are) afraid of the time off they’ll take.”
How far does the PDA go?
The article covers a case under consideration by the Supreme Court that may help determine the reach of the PDA. In Young v. United Parcel Service, Peggy Young charges that, while pregnant, she asked her employer to put her on light duty after her health provider suggested that she not lift more than 20 pounds. UPS denied the request, claiming that in keeping with company policy, she could only be given a light-duty assignment if she were injured at work. The court will decide if the company’s policy violated the PDA.
Mr. Boreanaz notes that “some people argue that the denial of that benefit to the pregnant woman is a violation of the PDA. UPS is basically saying that ‘We haven’t given light duty to any disabled workers.’ ”
Overall, Mr. Boreanaz points out that, without much direct evidence, “attorneys often try to prove pregnancy discrimination through circumstantial evidence. That includes the use of statistics, the timing of a particular change in policy, and the business sense of a decision to change a policy.”
Mr. Boreanaz, a member of Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria’s Labor and Employment Practice Area, focuses his on union-side labor law and plaintiff-side employment law. He has extensive trial experience, arguing before state, appellate, and federal courts.