Pregnant and Working? Your Job Could Be at Risk

by Cassandra R. Elias

Doctor Sues for Sex and Pregnancy Discrimination

Pregnant and working? Your Job Might Be at RiskMary Beamer, 41, a doctor in New Jersey, said she was "fired because she missed 11 days of work after complications from her pregnancy." The complication was hyperemesis gravidarum, which is a severe form of morning sickness that can cause dehydration. Any woman that's gone through this knows it's almost impossible to work or do anything else.

She did what any pregnant woman would do in that situation. She sued for sex and pregnancy discrimination. Bad news is, her employer ended up counter-suing her for $50,000 claiming she breached a four-year employment contract.

We aren't able to tell you how much Mary is suing for her back a front pay. She still had two and a half years left on her contract. Her suit will include punitive and compensatory damages along with attorney fees and costs.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is quoted as saying that Dr. Beamer's case puts a magnifying glass on the "long overdue" issue. Constance Barker, one of the EEOC commissioners, said that if there is still direct pregnancy discrimination, "we have failed as a commission."

When the EEOC asked the meeting's panelists why discrimination continues to persist 35 years after the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed, Joan Williams, law professor and director of the Center for Work Life Law at the University of California-Hastings, said the stereotype regarding gender and caregiving are "very strong."

"Although nobody says, 'This is not a suitable job for a woman,'" Williams said, "They say, 'This is not a suitable job for a mother.' That is discrimination."

Mary said she did not just lose a job, but that she "lost almost everything," including her livelihood and health insurance. She said she lost her marital home and had to move into her sister's basement. "My daughter is now 4, and I still have not been able to get another position like the one I lost," she said. "No woman should ever have to lose her job, insurance and career because she gets pregnant."

While many discrimination cases get dismissed on summary judgment, Beamer's case will get a jury trial, scheduled for May.

What do you think of Dr. Beamer's case and has this ever happened to you?

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