A Maryland financial advisory firm says that it had the right to fire a new employee last year after she informed her employers that she was pregnant. The firm says that because it employs fewer than 15 people, it isn't subject to federal or state anti-discrimination laws.
The ACLU of Maryland, which has taken on the woman's case, argues that because the firm is affiliated with Northwestern Mutual, it can't use that excuse. The group notes that the woman was an employee of the financial giant. Her offer letter and her introductory materials, an ACLU attorney notes, all carried the Northwestern Mutual name. A NM spokesperson says that the corporation was "not aware of this matter until we received the letter [from the ACLU] today."
Firm Allegedly Said It "Could Not Afford to Have a Pregnant Employee"
The woman was hired at the Annapolis firm in June of last year as an assistant. According to the ACLU, two weeks later, she told her employers that she was pregnant. They allegedly told her that they "could not afford to have a pregnant employee who needed leave from work at the time her baby was due." Despite the fact that she reportedly told her employers that she could work from home as needed, she was terminated in August. The 35-year-old woman says that she was "devastated" at losing a job she was excited to get after years of restaurant industry work.
She filed a complaint the following month with the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights. However, the commission reportedly closed the case later last year after determining that the firm was within its legal rights because of its size.
ACLU: These Are "Very Reasonable Requests"
The ACLU is asking NM to compensate its former employee for a year's wages as well as for the medical expenses associated with her pregnancy and childbirth. It's also asking for an apology. The ACLU told the company in its letter that it hopes it will agree to the "very reasonable requests" made, but that it's "fully prepared to move forward" with the case if necessary.
With Mother's Day just behind us, it's important to remember that pregnant women still find themselves discriminated against in the workplace in numerous ways, large and small. Often, employees don't know if the actions taken by their employers are legal. An experienced employment law attorney can answer your questions and provide guidance.
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