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Woman Told She Couldn’t Have Job Back because it Was “Her Fault for Getting Pregnant”

March 27, 2015 Pregnancy Discrimination

Staffer returned from maternity leave – only to find her job had been filled

If an employee gets pregnant and decides to return to work after taking maternity leave, her employer is generally required to restore her to her prior position, at the same pay right and with the same duties.

While that may seem pretty straight-forward, unfortunately, that’s not always the way things play out.

Sometimes companies may refuse to allow a woman to resume her job duties. Some businesses may even engage in more subtle maneuvers to force the woman to quit or to “punish” her for taking leave.

Let’s take a look at how this can play out. 

Pregnancy was a problem for management

Kimberly Kaiser had been employed as a day stocker and warehouse employee at Trace, Inc., for five years.

When she got pregnant, she requested reassignment to another area that would reduce the amount she had to lift. Management never responded to her request. After Kaiser was injured on the job, she brought in a doctor’s note saying that she was unable to lift more than 35 pounds. Her manager said he couldn’t accommodate the request, and told Kaiser that she could either quit or take a leave of absence.

Kaiser took the leave of absence. She attempted to return to work after the birth of her baby, but was told that her position had been filled. She was offered a night-shift job instead, with different job duties and a lower pay rate.

Kaiser, along with her union rep, tried for a month to reach an agreement with the company but was unsuccessful. When Kaiser was finally able to speak to the company’s personnel director, the woman stated that the conflict was Kaiser’s “fault for getting pregnant in the first place.”

Company turns the tables

Assuming she’d been fired, Kaiser got a lawyer. She sued, claiming that the company illegally retaliated against her because of her pregnancy.

The company countered that Kaiser had abandoned her job because she failed to return to work after maternity leave. It tried to get the case thrown out.

However, the court sided with Kaiser. It stated that there was enough evidence of retaliation that the case should be tried in front of a jury.

(The case discussed here is Kaiser v. Trace.)

Pregnancy covered by multiple laws

This case is just one example of how women may experience unfair – and possibly illegal – treatment because of pregnancy or a pregnancy-related condition.

If you’ve experienced something similar, it’s important to know your rights under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and other federal laws governing medical leave and disabilities.

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