If you believe your employer has discriminated against you because of your pregnancy, you can file a workplace discrimination lawsuit against them. Such unfair treatment might include refusal to hire you, wrongful termination, demotion or refusal of an expected promotion, refusal of benefits, training, or light duty assignments, or any other unfavorable decision based on your pregnancy. An employment discrimination or wrongful termination attorney in Jackson County, Missouri can evaluate your case and help you win full and fair compensation.
Can I File a Workplace Discrimination Lawsuit If I Was Discriminated Against Based on My Pregnancy?
Pregnant workers and job seekers are protected by law at a federal and state level. There are two key federal laws to be aware of. The first is the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which classifies pregnancy discrimination as a form of illegal sex discrimination and prohibits employers from treating potential or existing employees unfairly based on their pregnancy, medical conditions related to their pregnancy, or childbirth.
The second important federal law is the American Disabilities Act, which applies when a pregnant employee experiences a pregnancy-related impairment. If you experience temporary problems such as nausea or fatigue, the employer should treat you as they would any other employee with a temporary disability. This might include assigning lighter-duty tasks or offering temporary disability leave.
Filing Against Smaller Companies
The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act only applies to companies with 15 or more employees. But if your employer has six to 14 employees, your rights as a pregnant worker are still protected in Missouri by the Missouri Human Rights Act. Various other states have similar laws for employees of smaller companies.
Pregnancy and Maternity Leave
If you need to take paid pregnancy or maternity leave, you are also protected from unfair treatment. While you’re on leave, your employer must hold the job open for you for the same amount of time as any other worker on leave for sickness or disability.
Your Right To Keep Your Pregnancy Private
Whether you’re applying for a job or already have one, you aren’t legally required to inform the employer that you’re pregnant. Under the law, neither potential nor current employers can ask you if you’re pregnant or if you intend to have children; the only thing that should matter when making employment decisions is whether or not you’re qualified for the job.
Retaliation Shouldn’t Be Feared
Victims of pregnancy discrimination sometimes hesitate to take legal action because they fear retaliation. But employers are also prohibited from retaliating against you because of your pregnancy or because you’ve filed a complaint against them.
They cannot fire you because of your discrimination lawsuit, for example. And if you’ve been wrongfully terminated because of your pregnancy, winning the case will often force the employer to reinstate your former position should you still want it. If you do choose to return, the employer must treat you fairly and cannot retaliate against you in any way.
How To Proceed If You’re a Victim of Discrimination
If you wish to take legal action against your employer or former employer, you need to file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC is the federal agency governing the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. It’s important to act quickly, as you have a strict deadline of 300 days following the date of the most recent instance of discrimination in which to file your complaint.
Once the EEOC has received your charge, they have 180 days to act upon it. Most of the time, rather than directly handling the case, the EEOC will issue a right-to-sue letter. You then have 90 days to file your lawsuit. If you work for a business with under 15 employees, you can follow a similar procedure by filing a charge with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights, although you only have 180 days to do so.
The Challenges in Proving Pregnancy Discrimination
When you’ve experienced an adverse action against you and you strongly suspect discrimination, a lawsuit will require you to prove beyond reasonable doubt that your pregnancy was a determining factor in the decision. Sometimes, you’ll have direct evidence of discrimination, such as your manager openly stating that they’re refusing to promote you because they’re concerned that you won’t be able to travel as much with the new baby. Lawsuits with such an admission as evidence are usually easier to win.
But oftentimes, the manager will have been legally advised to avoid making any such condemning statement. They may instead invent an alternative reason for not promoting you, such as insufficient qualifications or poor performance. This situation makes a lawsuit harder to pursue, as you’ll need to provide enough circumstantial evidence for a jury to infer clearly that discrimination played a role in the decision.
How To Prove Discrimination Occurred
There are fortunately many ways that an experienced lawyer can build a strong case on circumstantial evidence alone. This often entails proving that other similarly situated employees were treated better than you. For example, if another employee was promoted in your place even though their qualifications and performance are objectively equal or inferior to yours, this suggests ulterior motives for the promotion.
Suspiciously timed decisions also frequently serve as crucial evidence in a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit. If you were turned down for a promised promotion just after a member of upper management visited your office and noticed the first visible signs of your pregnancy for the first time, this might indicate discrimination. Similarly, if you were fired just before beginning your pregnancy or parental leave, or shortly after returning from pregnancy or parental leave, a jury might also infer discrimination.
When To Hire an Attorney in Jackson County, Missouri
Time is of the essence when preparing and filing a lawsuit for pregnancy discrimination. If you’re unsure how to proceed, it’s wise to consult with an experienced attorney who can evaluate your case and explore your options.
One reason for prompt action is the deadlines for filing both a charge and a lawsuit. Another reason is that evidence tends to become harder to gather as time passes. Once retained, your attorney can thoroughly investigate your case, gather evidence, and either negotiate an out-of-court settlement with the defendant or try your case in court before a judge and jury.
Hiring a Wrongful Termination Attorney
If you believe you’ve been let go because of your pregnancy, it’s best to hire a specialist wrongful termination attorney. A wrongful termination lawyer can navigate the complex waters of employment laws for you and also provide access to their network of experts to help strengthen and prove your case.
Losing your job is upsetting and stressful enough at the best of times. When you also have a newborn baby or one on the way, these difficulties are compounded. One of the greatest benefits an attorney can provide is the legal support and peace of mind that comes from knowing someone with extensive experience and legal know-how is handling the entire lawsuit for you.
If you’ve experienced pregnancy discrimination in Jackson County, Missouri, contact Holman Schiavone, LLC
for a free consultation and case evaluation. Our experienced attorneys fight vigorously to hold abusers accountable and win full and fair compensation for their clients.