A federal judge ordered a medical staffing company to pay $148,000 to a former employee for discriminating against the woman because she was pregnant. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the lawsuit claimed the company’s owner discriminated against the employee when he made offensive comments to her about her pregnancy and then fired her because she wanted to take maternity leave after her son was born.

California residents may be interested to know that the EEOC places pregnancy discrimination, which is a form of sex discrimination, as a top priority in their fight against employment discrimination as a whole. Under both California and federal laws it is illegal for employers to refuse unpaid leave for health reasons. An employer cannot refuse a request for leave, terminate you because of your request or in any way interfere with your rights under the Family Medical Leave Act. The FMLA specifically prevents employers from discriminating, harassing or retaliating on the basis of a medical or family leave.

A default judgment was entered by the court after the company did not respond to a court order to retain legal counsel. The judgment ordered the company to pay back pay of more than $48,000, which includes interest earned prior to the judgment being issued. The company was also ordered to pay compensatory damages of $50,000 and punitive damages for another $50,000.

The company had terminated the employee as well as her health insurance while she was in the hospital recovering from her delivery.

Source: Workforce, “Staffing Firm to Pay $148,000 in Pregnancy Suit,” March 5, 2012