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Legal Rights If Fired While Pregnant: Can You Sue?

By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

While there are numerous legal protections for pregnant employees, being fired while pregnant isn't always a violation of the pregnancy anti-discrimination laws. However, all too frequently, pregnant employees are fired, demoted, or treated adversely, just because they are pregnant, which usually will be a violation of the law.

Proving that the motivation for the termination or other adverse action was discriminatory is a challenging task. Frequently, employers will provide no reason at all, or provide a pre-textual reason (a legitimate-sounding reason that is just meant to cover up the true, illegal, discriminatory reason). Fortunately, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission provides a formal complaint process (which is mandatory if you are considering filing a lawsuit).

EEOC Complaint Filing Requirement

If you believe that you were fired, demoted, written-up, denied leave, or received any other adverse action as a result of pregnancy discrimination, then you may be able to sue. Under Title VII, in order to be able to sue, you must first file a complaint with the EEOC, and receive a "Right to Sue" letter. You must file your EEOC complaint within 180 days, unless your state provides for a longer deadline.

Once the EEOC receives your complaint, they will investigate the matter. Generally, investigations include sending a charge to your employer, who will then respond and formally provide a reason for their action against you. Depending on the response, the EEOC may decide to investigate further by conducting interviews and requesting documents from your employer.

Additionally, the EEOC can require your employer to participate in a mediation to resolve the complaint. If they are unable to resolve the matter, even if they do not investigate, the EEOC will provide you with a Right to Sue letter that will allow you to file a federal court lawsuit within 90 days of receiving that letter.

Once you file an EEOC complaint, you are protected from retaliation for filing the complaint as well. So if you filed the complaint for an adverse action, write-up, job change, or some action other than termination, and you are treated to more adverse actions or termination after filing your complaint, you may have an additional cause of action for retaliation against your employer.

Other Causes of Action: State Law & 1983

In addition to the remedies available from the EEOC, state law may provide for additional remedies. Also, if you are/were employed by a government, government agency, or government contractor, you may have additional rights under 42 USC 1983, and other federal or state civil rights laws as well.

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