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Court: Pregnancy Discrimination Act Covers Maternity Leave Too

Posted in Discrimination & Harassment, Highlight, Litigation

Here’s an interesting question: Does the Pregnancy Discrimination Act protect an employee who is no longer pregnant?

Court: PDA covers maternity leave

A federal court decision in Connecticut yesterday says, yes. The case, Canales v. Schick Manufacturing, Inc. can be downloaded here.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) is part of Title VII and states that “women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes…as other person not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work”.

In Canales, the employer had terminated the plaintiff approximately one month after she had given birth and while she was on materinity leave. It argued that the PDA didn’t cover her. The court disagreed  saying that the language applies “not just to women who are pregnant”.

Indeed, the court suggested that, at least within the Second Circuit (New York, Connecticut and Vermont), there were numerous cases that supported this proposition.

The court also found that the pregnancy discrimination claim under state law should also be handled in a similar fashion.

What’s the takeaway for employers? Understand the breadth of federal employment laws.  A maternity leave may invoke not just the PDA, but also FMLA, state FMLA, ADA and now Connecticut’s new paid sick leave law as well.

Any employer who has a good reason to terminate an employee out on such leave ought to realize that such a decision is going to be heavily scrutinzed.