- A former Santander Bank vice president has sued the banking giant claiming her pay was cut and her employment was terminated after she asked for telework as an accommodation for medical complications she developed during her pregnancies (McKenna v. Santander Investment Securities, Inc., et al., No. 21-cv-00941 (S.D.N.Y., Feb. 3, 2021)).
- The VP said in her complaint that Santander's claimed reason for letting her go — a reduction in force — was pretext for firing her because of the second high-risk pregnancy she experienced while working for the company.
- She claimed interference and retaliation under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and violation of New York state and New York city laws in her court filing. Santander did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
More than a quarter of a million U.S. women are denied requested pregnancy accommodations every year, according to 2014 estimates from the National Partnership for Women & Families.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recommends managers treat accommodation requests from pregnant workers as accommodation requests under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) "unless it is clear that no impairment exists." The ADA entitles workers with disabilities to reasonable accommodations, assuming there's no undue hardship to the employer.
A typical pregnancy is not considered a disability under the ADA, but pregnant employees may have medical conditions stemming from pregnancy that may necessitate reasonable accommodations. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act doesn't explicitly require that employers accommodate pregnant employees, but it does require that employers treat individuals who are pregnant or who have a related medical condition the same as non-pregnant applicants or employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work. Impairments and disorders stemming from pregnancy, such as back pain, pregnancy-induced high blood pressure and gestational diabetes, may be disabilities under the ADA, the EEOC says. If an employee is temporarily unable to perform her job because of pregnancy, the employer must treat her the same as any other temporarily disabled employee and provide the pregnant employee with light duty, modified work tasks, alternative assignments, disability leave or leave without pay, according to the EEOC.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act on Sept. 17 by a 329-73 vote but the bill hasn't seen any action in the U.S. Senate. The proposed legislation would require private sector employers as well as some public sector employers to make reasonable accommodations for job applicants and employees with known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, unless such accommodations would impose an undue hardship on the employer.
While the bill languished in Congress, some states moved ahead on the issue. Oregon, for example, enacted a pregnancy accommodation law that took effect Jan. 1, 2020. The legislation requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees and job applicants who have limitations related to pregnancy unless doing so imposes an undue hardship on the employer.