Lexology (09/04/14) Aaron R. Gelb; Benjamin A. Hartsock
There are some circumstances in which an employer may legally terminate a pregnant employee, though it is a risky proposition and can hurt the company’s reputation. Under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, an employer cannot fire a pregnant employee simply because she may not be able to do her job. However, the courts have held that companies can terminate the employee in some limited circumstances when she is not eligible for Family and Medical Leave Act leave and the employer does not offer leave to nonpregnant employees who also temporarily cannot work.
In Cadenas v. Butterfield Health Care II Inc., a nursing assistant was terminated when she gave notice that at 20 weeks pregnant she would no longer be able to push, pull, or lift more than 20 pounds—essential duties for her job. The court found that if an employer does not offer certain treatment to a nonpregnant employee it is not required to give special treatment to a pregnant employee. In the rare event that a pregnant employee must be terminated, companies should be sure to thoroughly document the reasons.