In 2017, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission examined almost a quarter fewer pregnancy discrimination cases than it did in 2010. It also refused to prosecute most of the cases that it reviewed. That could be because pregnancy discrimination was not as bad in 2017 as it was in 2010. More than likely, the decline in numbers is because the EEOC simply does not have the resources to deal with these cases.
So, as they do in many other areas, employment discrimination attorneys must fill in the gap. This development may be a good thing. Your lawyer fights for you and is not constrained by political and other priorities that have nothing to do with your case.
Two Common Types of Pregnancy Discrimination in Illinois
Legally, there is a difference between prejudice and discrimination, even though some people use the terms synonymously. Essentially, prejudice is the belief that some people are somehow inadequate largely because of their gender, national origin, or some other status. Discrimination involves taking action against these individuals.
The two do not necessarily go together. A company can have discriminatory pregnancy policies even though ownership has no prejudice toward pregnant women. Consider the following categories:
- Direct Discrimination: Some companies refuse to hire pregnant women or dismiss pregnant employees simply because the company does not want to pay for extended leave and other benefits.
- Paternalistic Pregnancy Discrimination: Some employers refuse to hire pregnant workers or reassign its pregnant employees because the boss fears that certain job activities or chemicals may be harmful to pregnant women. Such conduct is still discriminatory. Mothers, and not company bureaucrats, should decide what is best for their babies.
In both of these kinds of cases, damages normally include compensation for economic losses, such as lost wages, and noneconomic losses, such as emotional distress. Additional punitive damages may be available, as well, in some cases.
Procedure in a Chicago Pregnancy Discrimination Case
To establish a prima facie case of discrimination, the plaintiff must prove that she suffered adverse action due to a past, current, or potential pregnancy. That also includes any pregnancy-related complications. The adverse action usually means an entry or exit-level decision, such as hiring, firing, promotion, or demotion.
About the only defense to a pregnancy discrimination claim in Illinois is that the employer had a neutral reason for the action. Typically, the employer must have a pre-existing, written program that affects pregnant and non-pregnant employees in the same way.
After the exchange of pleadings, the discovery process begins. During discovery, both sides exchange information in support of their claims and defenses. Common discovery tools include oral depositions, document requests, and answers to written questions. After discovery is entirely or substantially complete, one or both sides often ask the court for summary judgment. Basically, the argument is that the evidence is so one-sided that a trial would be a waste of time.
Most litigation cases settle out of court and in mediation. During mediation, a neutral third party, who is usually an uninvolved lawyer or a retired judge, tries to engineer a settlement between the two sides. Voluntary mediation is successful about 75% of the time.
Reach Out to an Experienced Attorney
Pregnancy discrimination is far too common and far too harmful. For a free consultation with an experienced employment law attorney in Chicago, contact the Law Office of Mitchell A. Kline. We routinely handle cases in Cook County and nearby jurisdictions.