Connecticut Super Lawyers
William G. Madsen
Federal and state laws prohibit pregnancy discrimination in employment. The prohibition not only protects the pregnant employee from wrongful termination, but from discriminatory treatment in the terms and conditions of employment—such as pay, benefits, work assignments, leaves of absence and discipline.
Courts have recognized that, for obvious reasons, it’s rare for an employer to be so candid as to say, “I can’t hire your right now because you’re pregnant’ or “The timing of your pregnancy is inconvenient; we think it would be best if you left the company immediately.” According, the counts permit juries to draw inferences of discrimination based on “circumstantial” or “indirect” evidence, sucha as unwarranted disciplinary warnings or the sudden imposition of an inordinately heavy workload. Other examples of circumstantial evidence include hypercritical performance evaluations, an unexpected demotion or a transfer.
Timing is an important component of a discrimination claim. For example, if a woman is subject to any of the circumstantial-evidence examples above shortly after disclosing the news of her pregnancy, this could constitute potent evidence of pregnancy discrimination. Or, if the decision-maker responsible for the alleged discrimination fails to follow proper company protocol or has, in the past, made sexist statements, this can also be utilized as evidence.