- A former retail operations manager at a New Jersey Ulta has sued the cosmetics company, claiming that she endured a hostile work environment as a result of a miscarriage and the need to take care of her ensuing medical needs (Guirk v. Ulta Salon, Cosmetic & Fragrance, No. 000299-21 (N.J. Super. Ct., Jan. 15, 2021)).
- The lawsuit specifically claimed that the plaintiff's direct manager and others in company leadership engaged in "pregnancy-based harassment, harassment based on disability and perception of disability [and] constructive discharge," among other things.
- The plaintiff had a "high-risk" pregnancy that required multiple doctors visits and eventually resulted in a miscarriage, which required further treatment afterward. She used her vacation and sick time, but during this time her manager questioned her need to miss work for medical treatment. The plaintiff needed surgery later on and her manager's questioning continued, reaching a point of harassment and hostile working conditions, the lawsuit claimed.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) resolved nearly 3,000 pregnancy discrimination charges in 2019 according to its fiscal year reporting. In November of last year, for example, the agency settled with a security company for $375,000 for allegedly firing a supervisor after she informed her manager about her pregnancy. And in July the EEOC alleged a pregnant employee working in sales experienced discrimination after having her territory re-assigned after she returned from leave.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed in 1978, as an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Fisher Phillips Attorney of Counsel Lisa McGlynn previously told HR Dive that employers with more 15 or more employees "are not allowed to discriminate against employees on the basis of their pregnancy or pregnancy-related conditions" including hiring, firing and promoting those that are pregnant or experiencing pregnancy-related conditions.
To prevent pregnancy discrimination, McGlynn recommended employers ensure consistent treatment of employees and avoid "benevolent discrimination."
"Employers think their hearts are in the right place," she said. "They don't want a pregnant employee to work too hard or work too much and take it upon themselves and say 'you can't do this' when the pregnant employee says herself that she can and she wants to."