Howard Levitt: Rise in maternity related terminations exposes vulnerability of pregnant workers

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webnexttech | Howard Levitt: Rise in maternity related terminations exposes vulnerability of pregnant workers
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Employers are not legally allowed to fire an employee for any reason relating to an employee’s sex or pregnancy. Nor can they treat them differently after learning of the pregnancy (such as demotion or removal of duties), or engage in any other discriminatory conduct. That said, we all know that the mere fact of illegality does not prevent an action from taking place — or, more accurately, it is the actual or potential consequences of breaking a law, rather than the fact of the law, that deters inappropriate conduct and encourages compliance. This does not mean that such inappropriate conduct does not happen. In fact, it is now happening with alarming frequency. And the protections have far more bark than bite — in most instances, the termination will stand, and the distressing effect on the employee will be severe. For the employer, most of the time, the only consequence of firing a pregnant employee is simply paying a little more money. There is no practical deterrence. Our courts have acknowledged repeatedly the vulnerability of pregnant employees. As a result, they often award higher notice periods and additional damages when these cases reach the courtroom. The finding of peculiar vulnerability in pregnancy discrimination cases is rooted in the fact that new mothers are thrust back into the job market amidst a tumultuous period of navigating parenthood.

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