- Blog post
Dangerous assumptions about expectant mothers
We’ve talked in other posts about how acting on our good intentions can sometimes get us sued by employees. There’s one area that’s pregnant with such possibilities.
That area is, ahem, pregnancy law.
Consider the case of EEOC v. White Way Cleaners. A female manager learns that one of her direct reports is pregnant. Turns out the woman works with certain toxic chemicals. The manager, who’s a mother, decides that if it were her, she’d never want to risk hurting the baby. So she shifts the woman to a desk job far from the chemicals.
The desk job is 32 hours a week, not 40, so the pregnant woman is now making less money. She’s not happy about it. So she sues and gets the company to settle out of court.
Hardly seems fair. Surely, the manager might have been genuinely tormented by the responsibility she felt for protecting the child – regardless of how the mother felt. The problem in this case was that the pregnant woman never asked to change jobs. In fact she fought to keep her original job and maintain her 40 hours.
Lesson learned: In this and other situations involving employee health, managers can’t intervene and make unilateral decisions. Had this case ever gone to court, no doubt the lawyers would have had the manager on the stand and asked, “Are you a doctor, a scientist, or someone capable of determining that the environment was actually harmful to a fetus?” The answer would have been no, of course. Case closed.