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Are spouses protected under pregnancy discrimination laws?

On Behalf of | Jun 23, 2020 | Pregnancy Discrimination |

Beginning or expanding a family is often a goal for individuals and couples in California. Thus, employees will often have to take time away from work to welcome the birth or adoption of a child. Federal and state laws protect an employee’s job when they are eligible to take time off work to care for the care for a baby. This means, if an employee suffers mistreatment or a termination because of this designated absence, this could constitute discrimination.

The same goes for pregnant employees, and this could fall under the category of pregnancy discrimination. But what about an employee that has a pregnant spouse? Could mistreatment or termination constitute pregnancy discrimination?

This is what a federal court judge in New York will have to clarify. This matter will determine whether pregnancy discrimination laws just cover the individual that is carrying the baby or if it also encompasses their spouse as well. This case involved a former Disney Employee who worked for their streaming service for roughly three years as a product designer. He alleges that he was terminated after he took two weeks of paternity leave.

Furthermore, he claimed that he experienced mistreatment before he told anyone at work that his wife was pregnant. He insisted that his computer was hacked and his superiors spied him on because they were suddenly referencing his personal matters without him sharing this information with them.

Based on a recent ruling by the Supreme Court, sex discrimination occurs when an employer intentionally relies in part on the sex of the employee when making the decision to discharge that employee. In other words, if changing the employee’s sex would have resulted in a different action by the employer, then a violation of the statute has occurred. Applied in this situation, had the employee been female and took maternity leave, would the employer have still terminated the employee?

Disney argues that this discrimination suit fails because the employee does not fall within a protected class. They further argue that the claim cannot be based on his sex and his wife’s pregnancy. However, based on the recent Supreme Court ruling, it is expected that the scope of pregnancy discrimination may require a review by the higher court as well.

Workplace discrimination can be a complex matter. Not only does is generate a wide range of emotions and concerns, but it also presents difficulties when it comes to maintaining employment. Thus, filing a legal action could help an employee not only establish that discrimination occurred but also help address the financial harms caused by the matter.