Female bus drivers who say they were discriminated against for their pregnancies by their California employer the transit authority in California, are suing the agency, saying they were:
- Exposed to carbon monoxide fumes;
- Not given accommodation for lactation (forcing them to drive while they were uncomfortably engorged);
- Refused reasonable modifications and arrangements that caused them physical stress, exhaustion and unplanned, unpaid leave that left them without health insurance coverage.
The four women say this treatment by the Northern California provider is in direct violation of the state’s fair employment housing act, which mandates reasonable accommodations for those enduring pregnancy-related disabilities – just as the companies would accommodate a worker with disabilities. The transit authority, they allege, made work life difficult for pregnant employees, and they are seeking to establish class action status.
What is Pregnancy Discrimination in California?
Pregnant women have numerous employment rights under both U.S. and California law. As Los Angeles pregnancy discrimination lawyers, we assess whether claims should be filed in state or federal court.
Under the U.S. Pregnancy Discrimination Act, discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or a related condition is prohibited in any aspect of employment, which can include recruiting, hiring, wages, assignment of duties, promotions, training, fringe benefits, layoffs or termination.
California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act requires employers to “reasonably accommodate” medical needs that are directly related to pregnancy and childbirth, which includes modification of work duties to something less strenuous, providing more frequent breaks or opportunities and access to a private area to express milk post-childbirth. This can also include pregnancy disability leave of up to four months and a return to the job (or a comparable one) once a woman is no longer able to have children.
Workers who are pregnant are not automatically considered “disabled.” They must provide evidence, such as from a physician, indicating that such accommodations are medically necessary.
Transportation Workers Allege Employer Discriminated Based on Pregnancy
The first employee to file a claim back in December alleged that she worked for six years as a bus operator, but was demoted to a position as clerk after being left with no choice but to take unpaid leaves of absence during three of her pregnancies (one of which ended in miscarriage) because she sought to work a position at a desk so she would not have to breathe in the toxic fumes while she was pregnant. The transit authority said it was not able to accommodate this request. One day, due to exhaustion, she fell asleep at the wheel. She took an unpaid leave of absence and during that time, she was demoted.
The other women too allege that the authority’s refusal to provide reasonable accommodation forces pregnant workers to continue carrying out job duties that expressly go against their doctor’s orders based on medical necessity, or else take unpaid leaves of absence.
Another of the plaintiffs said she too had issues with bus fumes while she was pregnant in the fall of 2017. She requested reassignment halfway through her pregnancy, doctor’s note in hand. The agency simply did not respond, despite her attempts to follow-up, ultimately forcing her to start her unpaid maternity leave much earlier than she’d planned.
For each woman, there was a result in loss of wages, health care and job security.
Another worker alleged the authority wouldn’t accommodate her schedule of lactation, so her husband had to meet her with her child during her breaks so she could feed him then. When she later became pregnant again, she was once again told there would be no accommodations.
Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 949.375.4734.
Four women now allege pregnancy discrimination at AC Transit, By Ashley McBride, The San Francisco Chronicle
More Blog Entries:
Employee Lactation Accommodation Rights Bolstered in California With AB 1976, Dec. 4, 2018, Los Angeles Pregnancy Discrimination Attorney Blog