Pregnancy discrimination an issue for employers in Louisiana?

Employers in Baton Rouge face challenges every day when attempting to build their businesses. A lot of these issues are expected, but many business owners might be caught off guard when facing employment litigation from current and former employees. However, as businesses expand and add more workers, the likelihood of such cases grows along with the company.

According to a recent article in The Washington Post, one particular form of employment litigation is on the rise in the United States. In fiscal 2011, 5,797 women filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that their employer discriminated against them on the basis of pregnancy. This was an increase of 23 percent over the number of cases filed in fiscal 2005. The cases were brought under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, which outlaws discrimination based on pregnancy or childbirth for companies that employ 15 or more people.

While the law has been in effect for over 34 years, employers are still facing such claims at an alarming rate. In about 75 percent of cases, the lawsuits claim wrongful firing. In another 10 percent, women alleged that the company failed to hire them due to a pregnancy. Of note, according to the EEOC, a number of high profile companies such as Delta Air Lines and Verizon have paid restitution in pregnancy-related discrimination cases.

To avoid the types of actions that can lead to employment litigation, employers should ensure that employees working in human resources are aware of and abide by the law governing employment. Pregnancy is just one of many things that an employer cannot take into consideration when selecting and retaining employees. While employment law can be a complicated matter for Louisiana businesses, the extra effort to comply with state and federal policies may pay off in preventing future lawsuits.

Source: The Washington Post, "Workplace pregnancy discrimination cases on the rise," Vickie Elmer, April 8, 2012

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