A recent Texas employment lawsuit shows what an employer should not do when an employee becomes pregnant. In Dailey v. Millennial Care Management, Inc., a nursing home supervisor in Prestonwood told her employer that she was pregnant. The next day she was fired. The employers, Prestonwood Rehabilitation & Nursing Center Inc. and Millennial Care Management Inc. say they let Seneada Dailey go because she did not take care of a patient situation adequately.
Dailey alleges she was terminated because she was pregnant. The case documents allege that Prestonwood’s human resources director said their “…insurance bills were too high and employees don’t need to be having babies.” Dailey alleges gender discrimination and seeks recovery of front and back pay, compensatory and exemplary damages, and related legal fees. As the Director of Nurses at the Prestonwood facility, Dailey asserts she was in charge of supervising 100 nurses.
Generally speaking, an employer cannot terminate an employee because the employee becomes pregnant. Likewise, an employer subject to the Family and Medical Leave Act cannot terminate an employee for seeking FMLA leave due to pregnancy. FMLA leave can be used for the birth of a child and the first few months of taking care of a newborn. An employee is allowed to use 12 workweeks of unpaid leave under these and other medical circumstances.
Additionally, an employer is required to maintain group health insurance coverage for an employee on FMLA leave. When relevant, employees will still need to pay their portion of the premiums. These health benefits can generally only be stopped if the employee alerts the employer that she will not be returning to work or fails to return to work when the FMLA timeframe ends.
When a worker returns from FMLA leave, she is generally entitled to resume her previous position in the company or hold an equivalent one with similar pay, benefits, status, and other terms of her employment. Workers cannot be subjected to retaliation or discrimination for using FMLA leave.
Pregnancy discrimination is against the law and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits employers from discriminating against pregnant employees. That said, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has noted a rise of 81 percent in alleged pregnancy discrimination cases between 1992 and 2010.
If you are an employer who has been accused of pregnancy discrimination or you are an employee who has been subjected to pregnancy discrimination, you should contact a knowledgeable employment attorney to protect your rights.