The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released an announcement that it filed a lawsuit against R. Siskind & Company, d/b/a Siskind Group. The EEOC alleges that the Manhattan-based apparel company violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) when it fired an employee because of her pregnancy.
Following an investigation, the EEOC determined that Siskind Group’s “reasons” for firing the customer service worker were a pretext. After trying to reach a pre-litigation settlement, and failing, the agency filed a lawsuit on July 10, 2017, in US District Court for the Southern District of New York.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978 amended Title VII which prohibits employment discrimination based on several protected characteristics. The PDA states that “Discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions constitutes unlawful sex discrimination under Title VII.” Discriminating can include refusing to hire, firing, harassing or taking other adverse employment action.
The law also requires that when a worker is temporarily unable to do her job because of pregnancy, the employer must treat her like any other temporarily disabled employee. For example, a non-pregnant employee hurts her back and at her request receives a chair, a similarly situated pregnant employee who has back pain and seeks a new chair, should also receive one.
The EEOC states in their enforcement guidelines “Title VII prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. Thus, an employer may not discriminate against a woman with a medical condition relating to pregnancy or childbirth and must treat her the same as others who are similar in their ability or inability to work but are not affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.”
According to Kevin Berry who directs the EEOC’s New York District, the employee in this case worked up to and including the day she went into labor. Siskind Group allegedly granted her leave so she could recover from giving birth. However, the EEOC in its investigation learned that when the company found out that the employee had a Cesarean section, it started making plans to hire someone to replace her. The company did not tell the employee that she was discharged until she tried to return to her job.
Jeffrey Burstein, the regional attorney for the NY District Office of the EEOC, stated, “Employers must understand that permitting pregnant employees to work is only one part of the equal opportunity based on pregnancy.” The PDA also prohibits discrimination based on childbirth and related medical conditions. The effects of a C-section may or may not fall into this category.
If the court finds that the employee did have a medical condition related to childbirth and that it was a motivating factor in terminating her employment, the company may be found in violation of Title VII as amended by the PDA. The court may look at how Siskind Group has treated non-pregnant employees who needed time to recover from surgery and whether the business held their jobs or terminated their employment.
Leeds Brown Law, P.C., employment lawyers handling cases in New York City and nearby counties, help workers when they experience discrimination. Our attorneys handle pregnancy discrimination, sex discrimination, sexual harassment and many other types of workplace harassment and discrmination. When you want attentive and tenacious advocates working on filing a charge or complaint, negotiating a settlement or preparing for trial, call Leeds Brown.
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