- Party City has agreed to pay $39,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging that it fired a pregnant worker in one of its Texas stores because of her pregnancy and a pregnancy-related medical condition.
- The worker sought medical care because of a condition related to the pregnancy and asked for a reasonable accommodation, the EEOC said in a statement. The store's management sent the request to the retailer's HR department, and after HR asked for additional information, the worker's request was denied. She was then fired — less than one year after she was hired, the EEOC said. The retailer's conduct violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the EEOC said in court papers.
- As part of the three-year consent decree settling the case, the company also agreed not to discriminate in the future on the basis of pregnancy or disability and to develop training about its policies and the PDA's and ADA's requirements.
This is not Party City's first brush with the EEOC. In October 2018, the agency sued the store for alleged violations of the ADA when it rejected an applicant with autism and a manager said she wouldn't hire people 'like that.' Party City paid $155,000 to settle those claims. The retailer is making out another check now, this time to settle claims under the ADA and the PDA.
The PDA, which amends Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, clarifies that discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions is a prohibited form of sex discrimination, the EEOC says in a question-and-answer guidance.
In addition, 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, providing the pregnant employee with light duty, modified work tasks, alternative assignments, disability leave or leave without pay, the EEOC says.
It's been estimated that more than 250,000 workers in the U.S. have been denied requested pregnancy accommodations. In its enforcement guidance on pregnancy discrimination, the EEOC has recommended that "managers should treat requests for accommodation from pregnant workers as requests for accommodation under the ADA unless it is clear that no impairment exists." Additionally, if an employer requires employees to submit a doctor's statement concerning inability to work before granting leave or paying sick benefits, then the employer may require pregnant employees to do the same, the EEOC says.
Employers should also be aware that many state and local laws provide protections for pregnant women that, in many instances, are more stringent than those provided under federal law. For example, although existing Kentucky law prohibited pregnancy discrimination, a new law that went into effect on June 27 requires employers to go one step further and accommodate mothers-to-be.