- Transport company SP Plus has agreed to a settlement with a former staff attorney who alleged the company discriminated against her on the basis of her pregnancy (Mellendorf v. SP Plus Corporation, No. 1:20-CV-2734 (N.D. Ill. July 9, 2020)).
- The former attorney alleged in court documents that, upon informing her manager about her pregnancy, the manager "began to treat Plaintiff differently than he had before she disclosed her pregnancy and differently from her non-pregnant counterparts." The plaintiff also alleged she then received less complex assignments and a negative performance review. After applying for and receiving pregnancy-related leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the plaintiff alleged her manager informed her that her position would be eliminated one week before the leave was scheduled to end. The company said it was eliminating her position because it was purchasing contract management software and could no longer afford her position; the plaintiff, however, said the company had been planning to purchase the software since before it hired her.
- The plaintiff sued, alleging SP Plus discriminated against her in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The parties asked the court July 9 to dismiss the suit, noting they had reached an agreement. An SP Plus spokesperson told HR Dive the company does not comment on pending litigation.
Pregnancy discrimination cases have led to large settlement amounts in recent years, including at some high-profile corporations. Walmart agreed to pay $14 million last year to settle a class action alleging it maintained a discriminatory policy that denied pregnant workers light duty, instead asking them to unpaid leaves of absence, despite light duty being available to workers injured on the job who otherwise similar in their ability to work. UPS agreed to a similar $2.25 million settlement weeks before.
Title VII, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy with respect to any aspect of employment, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Additionally, the FMLA allows parents to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for the birth or placement of a child, so long as they meet the law's eligibility requirements.
As with other protected classes under Title VII, pregnancy doesn't necessarily protect an employee from adverse employment actions such as layoffs based on nondiscriminatory factors, sources previously told HR Dive, but employers need to treat pregnant employees the same as they would any non-pregnant employee.