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There Are Various Ways to Prove Pregnancy Discrimination, Depending on Whether an Express Statement of a Desire to Terminate an Employee Due to Her Pregnancy Was Made or Not

by | Dec 13, 2021 | Pregnancy Discrimination

Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating against any individual because of her pregnancy. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has held an employee can establish a prima facie case of pregnancy discrimination by presenting “direct evidence” of discriminatory intent. What is direct evidence? The Sixth Circuit stated “[A] facially discriminatory employment policy or a corporate decision maker’s express statement of a desire to remove employees in the protected group is direct evidence of discriminatory intent.” Is it therefore necessary to have a statement of a desire to terminate an employee because of her pregnancy? The answer is no.

The Sixth Circuit held “[i]n order to make out a prima facie case of pregnancy discrimination using the McDonnell Douglas indirect method, [a plaintiff] must show (1) that she was pregnant, (2) that she was qualified for her job, (3) that she was subjected to an adverse employment action, and (4) that there is a nexus between her pregnancy and the adverse employment action.”

If the employee is successful in demonstrating the prima facie elements of her pregnancy discrimination claim, she has “create[d] a rebuttable presumption of discrimination,” and, at the second step of the McDonnell Douglas framework, the burden shifted to the former employer “to articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for taking the challenged employment action,” held the Sixth Circuit.

If the employer rebuts the presumption of pregnancy discrimination raised by the pregnancy employee’s prima facie case, the question remains whether, under the burden-shifting framework of McDonnell Douglas, the pregnant employee then can produce adequate evidence demonstrating that the employer’s proffered reason was a “pretext” for discrimination,” the Sixth Circuit stated.

The pregnant employee can then establish pretext by showing that the employer’s proffered reasons (1) have no basis in fact; (2) did not actually motivate the action; or (3) were insufficient to warrant the action.”.

To determine if you have a claim for pregnancy discrimination, call Dale Bernard at 440-546-7500.