[ RadSafe ] Pregnancy Discrimination In The Workplace Target Of New EEOC Crackdown

ROY HERREN royherren2005 at yahoo.com
Sat Sep 29 22:17:43 CDT 2012

Dear Radsafe mailing list members,

   Does anyone have an opinions on how the following article, see below, and how 
it's subject matter will affect US female workers who are exposed to ionizing 
radiation?  In my humble opinion I think the safest route may well be for 
employers to provide the worker "reasonable accommodation".  Reasonable 
accommodation doesn't mean automatically reassigning the worker, but rather 
after she has self-identified as wanting to declare her pregnancy to management, 
working with her to provide her with the information that she needs to determine 
what she would like to do, or needs to do for her career and her pregnancy.
Roy Herren

Pregnancy Discrimination In The Workplace Target Of New EEOC Crackdown 
Posted: 09/29/2012 5:20 pm EDT Updated: 09/29/2012 8:31 pm EDT 
WASHINGTON -- During the past week, the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission 
(EEOC) has filed four pregnancy discrimination related lawsuits and settled a 
fifth -- just weeks after the government's workplace discrimination law 
enforcement arm announced a plan to target employers who illegally discriminate 
against pregnant women.
On Sept. 20, a California security guard company, Quest Intelligence Group, was 
sued after a female employee, Tabitha Feeney, was fired from her job during her 
maternity leave. When Feeney tried to return to work, she was told the company 
had no open positions, but would call her as soon as it did. Quest never called 
Feeney, but hired a number of male guards while she waited to return to her job. 

"Losing my job and facing a brand-new job search right after giving birth was 
incredibly stressful," Feeney said in a statement. "I had a new baby to support 
and no income. I had planned on going back to my job, and it was devastating to 
lose that."
Also facing a lawsuit this week is Bayou City Wings, a Baytown, Texas-based 
restaurant chain that allegedly fired at least eight female employees because 
they got pregnant. According to the EEOC complaint, a Bayou City Wings employee 
handbook specifically instructed managers to fire pregnant employees three 
months into their pregnancies. One manager said this was because keeping the 
women working would "be irresponsible in respect to her child's safety." The 
manager was also afraid he would be punished "for not following procedures" if 
he didn't fire the women.
A third suit, also involving a restaurant, was filed against J's Seafood in 
Panama City, Fla., which was sued Thursday for discrimination after firing two 
pregnant waitresses, shortly after the women told their manager they were 
pregnant. "The restaurant told the employees that their pregnancies caused them 
to be a liability to the company," said the EEOC.
Employee instructions about how to handle pregnancies were also at issue in a 
fourth case, involving the Muskegon River Youth Home, a juvenile detention 
center in Evart, Mich. The center currently requires "employees to immediately 
notify the company once the employee learns she is pregnant, and requires her to 
produce a certification from her doctor that she is capable of continuing to 
work." In this case, the EEOC is seeking an injunction to prevent the home from 
carrying out the policy.
Cases of women being fired after notifying employers they are pregnant are all 
too common. Chemcore, a plumbing products company, agreed this week to pay 
$30,000 to settle EEOC charges that the company fired Marie Simmons, a customer 
service rep, mere hours after she told a supervisor she was pregnant. 

"Too many employers continue to penalize their female work force because of 
pregnancy," said Delner Franklin-Thomas, district director of the EEOC's 
Birmingham District, referring to the case against J's Seafood. "This lawsuit 
sends the message that employers need to hear -- stop discriminating against 
pregnant employees."
According to Detroit employment lawyer Louis Theros, a partner at Butzel Long, 
the high turnover rates and decentralized management structure prevalent at 
chain restaurants and retail stores make them a hotbed of discrimination 
lawsuits. "Many of the managers have little-to no contact with corporate HR," he 
said, "and a major question for them is whether they should act independently to 
'fix' an issue, or whether they should risk reporting what could reflect badly 
on them as a manager."
In the cases of illegal policies, like those at Bayou City Wings and Muskegon 
River Youth Home, Theros said it's unlikely a lawyer reviewed them before they 
were established, because if they had, the policies would have set off 
"atomic-level red flags."
Currently, the EEOC only has the resources to prosecute a fraction of the 
complaints it receives each year. Many more are settled before they get to court 
through mediation, where the plaintiff gets a monetary settlement and the 
employer avoids a lawsuit. 

But taken together, all five cases likely represent early steps in the EEOC's 
plan to tackle pregnancy discrimination and employer accommodation of pregnant 
employees over the coming year, a subject it labels "an emerging issue."
The plan dovetails with efforts by Democrats in Congress to pass the Pregnant 
Workers Fairness Act, a bill which would ensure that pregnant women are allowed 
the same reasonable accommodations currently available to people with 
All this comes as good news to Emily Martin, vice president and general counsel 
of the National Women's Law Center. "I'm very heartened to see the EEOC step up 
on this," she told HuffPost. 

Government action is especially important, she said, because in cases of 
employment discrimination "the employer has access to a lot of information the 
employee doesn't have, so it's often difficult for women to even realize they're 
being discriminated against." This is especially true "when you're talking about 
lower wage workers, who are less likely to assert their rights, and often more 
vulnerable to retaliation by supervisors or managers." 

Theros also has taken note of the EEOC's interest in pregnancy discrimination, 
and said he would be making a point of discussing this with his clients. 

"If the EEOC has put it on their plates, then my clients would do well to be 
even more cognizant about what they are doing with pregnant employees," he told 
HuffPost. "By issuing a strategic plan, the EEOC is essentially shooting a 
flare, giving employers a heads-up that, 'we're going to push this issue over 
the next few years.'"
"I've told clients for years that they should consider treating pregnant women's 
accommodations the exact same way they do with other people with temporary 
injuries," he said. "But now, do I go back to them and say that recent signs 
point to a broader scope of accommodation in the future? You bet I do." 

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