Can a Florida company fire a pregnant employee who handles chemicals?

Florida Corporation to Pay $55,000 to Settle EEOC Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit

According to a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) press release, a Florida corporation hired a female and assigned her to work as a shop apprentice. The job required the use of various chemicals to repair furniture. Two days later the employee informed the company’s shop trainer that she was pregnant. Later that same day, the company’s regional shop manager met with the employee and asked her to confirm that she was pregnant. According to the EEOC, during the meeting, the regional shop manager showed the employee a can of lacquer thinner that contained a warning that the contents could potentially pose a risk to a woman or her unborn child, and discussed the warning with pregnant employee.  The employee was then told that because she was pregnant, she could no longer work at the facility.

On February 3, 2017 the EEOC announced that the employer has agreed to pay $55,000 and provide other relief to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit filed by the EEOC. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. RTG, Civil Action No 5:16-CV-00663-BO.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), which prohibits employers from terminating workers because they are pregnant.  

In addition to providing the money to the employee of 3 days, the company entered into a three-year consent decree requiring it to develop and implement a policy that prohibits pregnancy-based discrimination. The decree further requires the company to conduct annual training for employees, supervisors, and managers at certain facilities on Title VII and its prohibition against pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. Further, the company must also post an employee notice about the lawsuit and on employee rights under federal anti-discrimination laws, as well as provide periodic reports to the EEOC.

A regional lawyer for the EEOC issued a statement to the press that, “[p]regnant women have the right to make their own decisions about working while pregnant, including the risks they are willing to assume…If there may be a potential health concern, it is up to the woman and her doctors to evaluate. Companies must not impose paternalistic notions on pregnant women, as doing so can result in unlawful discrimination.”

This case reminds Florida employers of the importance of contacting competent labor counsel before terminating a pregnant employee.  If you need assistance in such a situation, contact the Law Office of David Miklas, P.A. or call us at 1-772-465-5111.

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Law Office of David Miklas, P.A.

Labor & Employment law - Employers only