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syz's avatar

My pregnant friend was fired - options?

Asked by syz (35649points) February 15th, 2008

I have a friend who was layed off of her job at 7 months pregnant. She’s only been in the state for a few months and so doesn’t qualify for unemployment. Someone else who was laid off was also pregnant. Is that legal? What are her options?

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7 Answers

cwilbur's avatar

She can sue for wrongful termination—as far as I know, it’s not legal to lay off or fire people for being pregnant. But it’s likely to be difficult to prove, especially if several other people were laid off at the same time—it’s not illegal to lay off or fire someone who’s pregnant, if there are other reasons or the pregnancy has nothing to do with it.

And of course I am not a lawyer. But I would suspect that she would do well to talk with one, since he can lay out her legal options better than Fluther can.

Amurph's avatar

It’s completely illegal to be fired because you are pregnant, but like cwilbur says – it’s hard to prove it. If the 2 pregnant women were the only ones laid off then she has a case. I’d tell her to call a lawyer – find one who specializes for this sort of thing.

vanguardian's avatar

It would be very hard to prove, unless they have a track record of this. Which helps that there was another pregnant employee as well. They are most likely an “at will” employer, which means they can fire for any reason, but they are not exempt from discrimination laws. So as the others said, have her contact a lawyer.

ironhiway's avatar

She may qualify for:

Unemployment from where she previously lived.

Disability due to the pregnancy.

srmorgan's avatar

I am not a lawyer so this might not be the correct advice, but the attorney who handles labor issues for my company has had us be particularly aware about inadvertently violating an employee’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. I don’t know if this qualifies under that law, but I know that we, as employers, must treat a pregnant employee in exactly the same way that we would treat any other employee who had a medical disability. In other words, if an employee with a broken leg gets two week’s paid leave and then goes on short term disability, the pregnant employee must be treated the same way, no better and no worse.

I am down the road from you in Wilmington and our local attorney is terrific when it comes to stuff like this.

There is also a law in North Carolina called REDA which prevents an employer from firing an employee in retaliation for any legal action taken by the employee. If your friend had formally notified her employer of her pregnancy this might be covered but it’s a stretch.

The other thing to consider is whether your friend’s employer has published an employee handbook or manual because the book might spell out things like a 90 day probation period under which you could be terminated for any reason whatsoever without recourse to employee protection laws.

However as some others have said, if this employer fired TWO pregnant employees at the same time and he can not demonstrate a real reason for selecting just these TWO, like last hired, first fired, then this employer may have opened himself to a hell of a lawsuit.

Consult an attorney, If you want my local attorney send me a private message.

One other thing for your friend to consider: if she had become eligible for medical benefits offered by her employer, then she has the right to continue her medical and dental benefits, or both, under a Federal law called COBRA. The employer must offer this to her in writing, usually by US Mail, within 14 days of her termination, whether voluntary or involuntary. Her cost would be up to 102 percent of the premiums paid by her employer to the medical and dental insurance carriers. It can be a lot more expensive than you thought and difficult to pay for if you are unemployed but if she is late in her pregnancy she may need medical and hospital coverage for her delivery and prenatal care.

In fact, if the employer fired these employees in an attempt to keep his costs and ultimately his premiums down, if your friend opts for COBRA then the group’s loss coverage will still be affected by her medical costs. Something to consider.

SRM

juliahc's avatar

Is your friend still unemployed and without health insurance coverage? You can check what her options are and find more information about health insurance for the unemployed in this guide:
http://www.healthinsurancefinders.com/unemployed/guide/

juwhite1's avatar

Sounds like they most likely used the criteria of “last in first out” in the lay-off decision, based on the fact that she had only been in the state for a few months. She clearly wasn’t employed there for very long. If she’s 7 months pregnant now, there is a strong possibility they knew she was pregnant back when she was 4 or 5 months along and they hired her anyway. Sometimes life sucks, but this doesn’t seem to have the makings of a pregnancy discrimination claim. Also, the appropriate legal reference for this case is the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (ADA does not cover pregnancy in most situations, because it specifically excludes temporary conditions).

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