People often think that a pregnant employee is cloaked with some type of protection against termination or lay-offs that other employees do not possess. I have had potential clients call me and tell me their stories about pregnancy “discrimination,” when in fact there was no pregnancy discrimination at all — they were simply subjected to discipline for something they did while pregnant. Some pregnant employees actually believe they can be immune from adverse employment actions no matter what!
In Derry v. Renuance Aesthetic Care, Inc., an unpublished decision, the Fourth District Court of Appeals considered a case where a receptionist for a medical practice claimed pregnancy discrimination when she was not returned to her job after maternity leave. The employer said the position was eliminated due to slow business in these tough economic times.
Plaintiff sued her former employer for pregnancy discrimination under FEHA — Government Code § 12945 — and for wrongful termination in violation of public policy. The trial court granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment and plaintiff appealed.
Plaintiff was hired as a receptionist. She later became pregnant and worked up until she gave birth. She and her employer agreed that plaintiff would take 12 weeks of maternity leave. Just before she was to return to work, defendant notified plaintiff that her position was eliminated due to tough economic times and a decrease in business.
Plaintiff argued that the economic slowdown claim was pretext for defenant’s real reason not to return plaintiff to her position – pregnancy discrimination.
Defendants produced evidence that no one else was hired to replace plaintiff. Plaintiff’s position was eliminated to save money. Another employee had also been laid-off. There was also evidence that a majority of defendant’s employees were women and many of them had themselves taken maternity leave and returned to work — one had even taken two different maternity leaves and had returned to work. The sole male employee even took family leave when his child was born and he returned to work.
The Court properly concluded under these circumstances that there was simply no discrimination here – blame it on the economy.
The lesson here is to look at all the facts – timing alone does not prove a case. All the facts do.
Derry v. Renuance Aesthetic Care, Inc., 2012 WL 2833959 (2012).