The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) prohibits employers from discriminating against pregnant women. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that provides similar protections for workers who choose to take time off from work in order to handle a pregnancy or the birth of a new child. There are certain cases where the applicability of these laws is clearly apparent. Sometimes, however, it may not be so obvious that an activity is unlawfully discriminatory against pregnant women.
One recent case demonstrates a strange way that an employer may violate the rights of its pregnant employees or employees who hope to become pregnant. Baily Stoler worked for a nutritional education school in New York. While there, Stoler noticed that the company treated male and female employees differently from one another.
She specifically notes that the company asked female employees about their pregnancy plans, often fired pregnant women who took leave provided by the FMLA, and replaced fired workers with single and childless ones.
Stoler also claims that the company developed a system of predicting when female employees would likely become pregnant. The system was based on several different factors such as a worker's age, marital status, and the number of children the employee already had.
When Stoler and two other employees questioned the propriety of the company's policies, they were told that the company used the policy because "women's priorities change when they become mothers." When Stoler became pregnant and began planning to take leave under the FMLA, she was fired. She claims that several of her co-workers experienced the same result when they requested FMLA leave.
Shortly thereafter, these workers filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging that it had violated the FMLA. Although the company tried to have the lawsuit thrown out, a court sided with the women, agreeing that they have a valid claim that must be properly evaluated by a jury. The case will now proceed in court, where a jury will determine whether the company has violated the FMLA.