Is it pregnancy discrimination?

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Is it pregnancy discrimination?

I am wondering if the following situation can be considered a discrimination due to my pregnancy. I worked in NJ for a firm that has 26 employees. I got pregnant and gave my employer 4 months notice prior to my short term disability and paid family leave. I left 1 week prior to when the company gave employees their yearly bonuses and I was not given my bonus even though my recent performance review was good and didn’t indicate any problems. So I exhausted my STD leave and went on my paid family leave. A couple of days ago I contacted my supervisor to discuss when I will return to work. I was notified that I am laid off because my department lost its major client. They offered me a choice of either 2 weeks worth severance package or a position completely unrelated to my previous role with 20k paycut. I haven’t signed anything yet. Can this be considered a discrimination due to pregnancy?

Asked on March 22, 2019 under Employment Labor Law, New Jersey

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

It may be pregnancy discrimination and it's worth contacting the state's Division on Civil Rights (DCR) to inquire into whether you have a case. Here are the factors:
1) IF your layoff can be proven to be due to a major client being lost, that is not discrimination, but even if a client was lost, if there were several people who could have been laid off due to lack of funding but they only laid off the woman who'd been pregnant, they could easily still be discrimination. On the other hand, if you were the only person full time on that client, or if everyone or a majority of people associated with that client were laid off, that would not be discrimination. They could not target you for a layoff--that is the point. If the layoff truly can be shown to be related to the client and not in any way your pregnancy, that is not discrimination.
2) As to the bonus, if several or a number of people did not get bonuses despite performance that would normally have qualified them for one (say because the company decided to generally cut back on bonuses, which is its right) and you were just one of those people, there is a good chance that is not discrimination. But if only you among the qualified people were denied a bonus, that would likely be discrimination. Again, the issue is, did they target the pregnant woman?


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