Recent case illustrates nuances of pregnancy discrimination in California

No matter the industry, pregnant workers may face illegal discrimination

California prides itself on its worker-friendly laws. Among the rights afforded to California workers is the right to not be discriminated against because of pregnancy. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act is a federal law that amended the Civil Rights Act to include pregnancy as a protected class. In California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act also prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy and requires employers to provide reasonable job accommodations for pregnant workers. The California Pregnancy Disability Leave Law allows up to four months of pregnancy disability leave if necessary because of the pregnancy or a pregnancy-related issue.

That is not to say pregnancy discrimination doesn’t happen, however. A recent case in the California Court of Appeals exemplifies how pregnancy discrimination cases are still unfortunately routine in California and across the country, despite laws against the practice.

Price is high for Price is Right

On December 11, 2014, a California Appeals Court held that a former model on The Price is Right will be able to re-try her pregnancy discrimination case.

In 2012, a jury awarded the model $7.7 million because of pregnancy discrimination. She had argued that after she went on maternity leave the producers of the game show refused to hire her back. The model had lost one of her twins during birth, and she alleged that the producers did not want a “bad baby story” involved in the show. In addition, she alleged the producers made unflattering remarks about her weight during pregnancy. After trial, The Price is Right Productions, Inc., appealed the award, arguing that the jury received improper instructions and filed to have the award overturned because the evidence did not support the jury’s findings.

During the original trial, the jury was told that it must find “discriminatory animus” to be a “motivating factor” in order to find The Price is Right Productions, Inc. guilty of pregnancy discrimination. However, just before trial, the California Supreme Court issued a ruling that discriminatory animus must be a “substantial motivating factor” in order for an action to be considered illegal pregnancy discrimination. The trial court therefore threw out the verdict and ordered a retrial. Both sides appealed.

The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s ruling, although a date for the retrial has not yet been set.

An employment law attorney can help

As demonstrated by this recent case, while pregnancy discrimination is clearly illegal, the law surrounding protections for pregnant workers still contains numerous nuances in the law. And pregnancy discrimination is a very real problem throughout a number of professions and industries despite its illegality.

California workers who believe they suffered from pregnancy discrimination should contact the experienced employment law attorneys at Stephen Danz & Associates to discuss their situation and legal options.