A mere month after giving birth, a former executive at SoulCycle was fired. Now, according to Business Insider, she’s suing for “blatant” pregnancy discrimination. She alleges in her 32-page complaint that the company’s CEO openly and vulgarly mocked parental leave prior to her taking it. She said the company “unforgivably” used the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to fire her, when the actual reason was discriminatory.
At the time of her termination, plaintiff had worked for the corporation 7 years and oversaw more than 400 instructors. When she revealed her pregnancy late last year, she said, her superiors began treating her differently. She was told she’d be moved to a new position once her maternity leave was up. This new position, she says, was effectively a demotion, and there was no legitimate reason given for it. She had her child in late March. Little more than a month later, she was told her position was eliminated. She reports she wasn’t the only one. Three other women who had recently returned from maternity leave or were pregnant were also let go.
Her complaint had been filed after two instructors publicly quite their jobs over concerns about racial inclusivity.
What is Pregnancy Discrimination?
More than four decades ago, Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act which protects pregnant women and new mothers in the workplace by making it illegal for employers to consider one’s pregnancy when it comes to decisions about hiring, firing, promotion and other employment matters. It also allows pregnant women the same sorts of protections and accommodations as co-workers with other types of health issues or are similar in their ability/inability to work. (Some conditions that might qualify pregnant workers for light duty or other accommodations include things like gestational diabetes or preeclampsia.)
Unfortunately, as our Los Angeles pregnancy discrimination lawyers know well, the law hasn’t eliminated the problem. The EEOC reports nearly 3,000 pregnancy discrimination claims were filed last year. Claim settlements in 2019 reached more than $22 million, which was an increase of nearly one-third compared to the yearly average between 2010 and 2018. The actual incident rate is probably much higher than reported because many women don’t know their rights – or how to assert them. This is even though many employers are rather unapologetic and upfront about their biases. They may say that they can’t afford to have the worker take off for a few weeks or months. They may give the better assignments to workers who aren’t pregnant, deny raises or even fire pregnant workers on the spot.
And discrimination doesn’t end when the pregnancy is over. Professional women who recently gave birth are subject to discrimination for taking parental leave, for breastfeeding and for attending to childcare needs.
New parents (including adoptive and foster parents) are entitled to receive 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, which can be used for care of a new child. Employees need to have worked for the employer for at least a year before being eligible.
Those who believe they have been discriminated against because of their pregnancy should discuss these issues with an experienced Los Angeles employment attorney.
Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.
Pregnancy Discrimination, EEOC