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The Irony of Pregnancy Discrimination at a Female-Owned Company


The Irony of Pregnancy Discrimination at a Female-Owned Company Pregnancy discrimination is not a novel concept in the area of employment and it is still surprising how often it occurs. What is probably more surprising is that it would repeatedly occur at a company that was started by a single mother. However, that is what has been alleged in Los Angeles against a million-dollar company owned by a woman.

Pregnancy Discrimination Claims Against “The Wonderful Company”

This case against The Wonderful Company was reported in Forbes Magazine, no doubt because of the extreme irony. The Wonderful Company is owned by a 75-year-old woman who is reportedly a self-made billionaire. But it is how she began her billion-dollar empire that makes the case so surprising. According to the Forbes report, the owner started her business from the ground up as a single mother. She began struggling in the 1970s to launch an advertising company which is currently valued at more than $4 million. Also surprising is the fact that this isn’t the first pregnancy discrimination lawsuit that has been filed against the company. Reportedly, the same company faced a similar claim only five years ago.

Alleged FMLA and Pregnancy Leave Violations

The employee who filed the claim was a marketing director who alleged she was terminated while on maternity leave with her newborn child. Under California law, she was entitled to sixteen (16) weeks of pregnancy leave, four (4) weeks more than what is allowed under the FMLA. She was terminated exactly twelve (12) weeks after she began her pregnancy leave, in violation of California’s Family Rights Act.

How Was the Decision Based on Her Pregnancy?

According to the terminated employee, she had excellent performance, but her supervisor began scrutinizing her prior work while she was out on pregnancy leave, presumably in an effort to find a reason to terminate her. More compelling is the fact that, the year before she was being considered for a promotion and was asked directly whether she was pregnant. That question alone was unlawful under both the FMLA and the California Family Rights Act. The case is set to be arbitrated.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) was passed in 1978 to provide much-needed protection for female employees from discrimination on the basis of “pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition.” The PDA includes two primary provisions: one prohibiting pregnancy bias, as a way to discriminate against a female employee because of their sex; the other prohibiting employers from treating pregnant females different from other employees who perform the same work, with respect to leave, insurance and other benefits.

Requesting Leave for Pregnancy-Related Issues

It is important that, if you plan to take maternity leave or intermittent leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you provide your employer with reasonable notice of your intended leave. Not every employee will be eligible for FMLA leave, but if you are you are allowed to take
leave for a maximum of twelve (12) weeks within a 12-month period. The leave must be based on family or medical reasons, which includes the birth of a child. Unless your employer’s policies state otherwise, FMLA leave is unpaid. In other words, your employer is not required to pay you under this federal law.

If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation in the workplace, or if you have any other questions regarding your employment rights, please contact the experienced Birmingham employment law attorneys at Michel | King . You can contact us either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880. We are here to serve you!

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