- A longtime Urban Outfitters employee has sued the company, claiming her supervisor exhibited pregnancy bias and then fired her because of her pregnancy (DeMarco v. Urban Outfitters, Inc., No. 19-5025 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 25, 2019)).
- In her complaint, Anna DeMarco alleged she received excellent performance reviews dating back to the start of her employment. After becoming pregnant and taking maternity leave, however, she allegedly: had her work-from-home privileges revoked; was effectively demoted, never receiving her full responsibilities back; and was told by a senior manager that it was unclear "if your head is in the right place...since your priorities are in other places."
- When DeMarco mentioned that she was trying to get pregnant a second time, the employer terminated her "abruptly" two weeks later, saying her job title was being eliminated, according to the complaint. DeMarco claimed she was not allowed to apply for another position within the department and that her job responsibilities were divided up among other less-experienced employees "who did not have any family responsibilities."
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) views discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions as a prohibited form of sex discrimination. Under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), part of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, an employer cannot fire, refuse to hire, demote or take any other adverse action against a woman if pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition is a motivating factor in the adverse employment action.
The PDA bars discrimination with respect to all aspects of employment, including pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training and fringe benefits (such as leave and health insurance).
Pregnancy bias issues often arise in the context of pregnancy-related medical conditions, but they can also come up — as is alleged in this case — when managers make assumptions about new mothers' capabilities or priorities.
According to the EEOC, "[d]iscrimination based on an employee's caregiving responsibilities may violate Title VII if it is based on sex. For instance, an employer would violate Title VII by denying job opportunities to women, but not to men with young children, or by reassigning a woman who has recently returned from maternity leave to less desirable work based on the assumption that, as a new mother, she will be less committed to her job."
Training for managers and supervisors may need to include coverage of the laws prohibiting bias against pregnant employees and applicants. Additionally, experts suggest that employers offer a robust reporting mechanism for complaints and that HR promptly and thoroughly investigate all such claims.