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Bryant Whitten, LLP

Big pregnancy discrimination case turns heads across country

California employees may be interested to hear that the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has announced the settlement of allegations against a major nationwide corporation. The action alleged pregnancy discrimination in that a major retailer, which ironically sells women's clothing, was accused of not accommodating pregnant employees as required by law.

In some cases, for instance, pregnant employees were either fired or forced in to taking unpaid time off even though other options were available. Ultimately, the company agreed to pay $3.5 million and agreed to reform its practices and require additional training for 10,000 or so employees.

The case puts in to sharp focus the EEOC's long-term priority goal of reducing incidents of pregnancy discrimination across the country. Pregnancy discrimination is an ongoing problem in several different job sectors despite their being a number of laws prohibiting it. In the white-collar world, for instance, a woman who is pregnant may find herself passed over when bonuses are decided or find herself on the outside looking in when it comes to major work-related projects and opportunities.

One of the hottest legal issues right now is whether a pregnancy gets additional protection as a legal disability when accompanied by atypical symptoms, like medical complications and even seemingly routine pregnancy symptoms like severe morning sickness. Many courts are beginning to recognize that many pregnancies are, even if happy and welcome, also serious and challenging medical conditions.

The bottom line is that pregnant women in Fresno, California, can and should expect that their employers will treat them fairly during their pregnancy and after their child is born, and certainly, not discriminate against them. Although the case in the present story was prosecuted by the federal government, private employees may also seek out legal remedies for discrimination based on pregnancy.

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