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