A bias complaint that began with a controversial internal memo is now a full-blown investigation.

In August 2019, Chelsey Glasson uploaded a memo to the company’s server entitled “I’m Not Returning to Google After Maternity Leave, and Here is Why.” Glasson alleged that her supervisor made discriminatory comments about pregnant women and the company retaliated against her when she complained. Several months later, Glasson filed a formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging discrimination and retaliation. Google told the EEOC that Glasson’s bias allegations were groundless and she was not promoted because of reasons unrelated to her pregnancy. The EEOC was unimpressed and referred the case to its Seattle division for further action.

Alphabet, Google’s parent company, recently paid $11 million to resolve an unrelated age discrimination claim.

Pregnancy Bias Laws

Federal laws, including the Civil Rights Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, prohibit all types of pregnancy bias. That includes discriminatory comments from supervisors or co-workers. Companies must create and maintain a bias-free workplace. So, when other employees act inappropriately, the company has a duty to discipline these employees if they were in the wrong.

South Carolina’s Pregnancy Accommodations Act, which took effect in 2018, goes even further. It requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to current and potential employees with pregnancy-based medical needs.

In this context, a “reasonable accommodation” usually means granting an employee’s or applicant’s request unless the request is clearly unreasonable. For example, if Julianne asks for an expensive office chair with lumbar support because her doctor told her to support her back, her employer must probably provide that chair. Julianne need not settle for a compromise, like a bigger seat cushion or a nicer but less-expensive chair.

Remedies Available

Pregnancy discrimination victims usually have several options in terms of remedies. That’s assuming they can establish bias.

At a minimum, these individuals usually receive back pay. That could be lost pay as a result of the termination. Alternatively, that could be the difference between their current pay and the money they would have made had they been promoted.

Legally, if the pregnant employee was wrongfully terminated, that employee is entitled to reinstatement. But for various reasons, that’s not always an appropriate remedy. Perhaps the victim has relocated to another geographic area or has found a new job. In these situations, a reasonable amount of front pay is available. That award basically represents future lost wages.

Pregnancy discrimination victims are entitled to compensation. For a confidential consultation with a Greenville employment law attorney, contact the Briggs Law Firm. After-hours visits are available.

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