Q&A: Does a pregnant worker denied starting a job, when baby is due, have a plausible claim of discrimination?
Issue: Lucy, a part-time employee who works remotely, applied for a full-time position with her employer. During the second round of interviews, which included a discussion about the available position and its start date, Lucy told the interviewer that she was pregnant. The interviewer asked when her baby was due and how much time she planned to take for maternity leave. After hearing her response, the interviewer explained that while start dates could be flexible, Lucy’s due date and planned time off interfered with the planned start date so she would not be hired for the available position. The interviewer also told Lucy that the hiring committee would be informed that she would be unable to perform in the position. The available position was filled by a nonpregnant person. Two months later, after having filed an EEOC charge, Lucy applied for another full-time position and was again rejected. Does she have enough to support a discrimination claim?
Answer: Based on these facts, a federal district court in New Hampshire concluded that the employee’s allegations were sufficient to make her claims of pregnancy discrimination plausible. The employee alleged that the interviewer made statements during her job interview that showed her pregnancy was viewed in a negative light and interfered with her starting a new position. The interviewer also stated that exceptions had been made in the past regarding start dates for positions, but not this time.
A court also could find that the employee’s allegations were sufficient to permit a claim of retaliation to proceed because such a short amount of time had passed between her complaint and her employer’s rejection of her application for a full-time position. Such close temporal proximity, and the allegation that the employer knew of her complaint, was enough to show a causal link at the motion-to-dismiss stage.
Source: Fireside v. College for America, Southern New Hampshire University (DNH 2018) 102 EPD ¶45,992