Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace: 5 Steps to Avoid a Suit

Published on Tue, 04/14/2015 - 00:44

You don’t have to look far to find lawsuits in the news related to pregnancy discrimination. In fact, CBS cited that between 1997 and 2011, these “complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) jumped 43 percent.”

For example, last month UPS lost the suit filed by Peggy Young, who requested light-duty work when pregnant, but was forced to take unpaid leave instead. Young claimed that her employer had violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, and the Supreme Court agreed.

Nursing Assistant Jamie Cole ran into a similar situation last year. Her employer prohibited her from lifting patients during her third trimester, but refused her request for light-duty work – instead, he just stopped giving her shifts.

Five steps to avoid pregnancy discrimination suits

Wondering how you can avoid a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit?  Below are five smart steps:

1.     Create policies that affirm equal treatment for employees who are pregnant.

2.     Post your policies where they’re clearly visible, and make sure each employee gets a copy.

3.     Inform your employees on what to do if they experience discrimination.

4.     Make it clear how your company will address discrimination and back them up.

5.     Keep detailed records of everything you do to prevent and follow up on discrimination.

By following these steps, you demonstrate that you’re not an adversary, but an ally. This makes it more likely that an employee would go to you for help, instead of taking you to court.

What if a lawsuit can’t be avoided?

This scenario is why employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) exists. Whether your business is large or small, the legal costs of defense, judgements and settlements can be ground-shaking, even if you win. What kinds of lawsuits does EPLI cover? Here’s the list, from the Insurance Information Institute:

  • Sexual harassment
  • Discrimination
  • Wrongful termination
  • Breach of employment contract
  • Negligent evaluation
  • Failure to employ or promote
  • Wrongful discipline
  • Deprivation of career opportunity
  • Wrongful infliction of emotional distress
  • Mismanagement of employee benefit plans

While it’s important to evaluate your policies for areas where you could take a stronger stand against discrimination, it’s equally important to acknowledge that no one is immune to getting sued. EPLI provides broad coverage for a variety of situations, not the least of which is pregnancy discrimination.

Cover your bases. Learn more about Employment Practices Liability Insurance here.