In Anderson v. Cato Corp. the plaintiff Cynthia Anderson alleged Cato Corporation discharged her by discriminating against her for pregnancy. Anderson was a part time employee of Cato who became pregnant. As the pregnancy progressed she came to a point where her doctor ordered her to extended bed rest. As a part-time employee, she was not entitled to a leave of absence or FMLA leave.
Cato had a policy of terminating part-time employees who need extended leave. Then it would hire them back after the worker could return to work. After her discharge, Anderson asked her managers to provide a letter stating the termination was due to her pregnancy so she could receive public medical assistance. Her managers complied. Anderson used these letters to form the basis of a discrimination charge. She alleged the letters were clear evidence that pregnancy discrimination was the basis of her discharge. If you believe you have a similar situation in Texas with pregnancy discrimination then you should contact employment lawyers in Texas to discuss your claims.
Pregnancy discrimination act
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act requires employers to treat pregnant employees the same as other employees of similar abilities. Particularly in providing benefits, disability and sick leave. Violations of PDA are similar to other forms of employment discrimination. Typically, letters explaining the employer’s motive that indicates discrimination provide clear and powerful evidence of discrimination.
Here the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, located in Denver, Colorado, drew a careful distinction. Anderson asked the managers to provide letters that stated pregnancy as the reason of discharge for medical benefits. The letters were not smoking guns proving discrimination. In fact, Anderson was unable to produce any other evidence that proved discrimination. Cato treated her the same way it treats any other employee who needs extended leave.
The court drew the distinction on the basis that the letters did not prove the decision was made on the basis of her pregnancy but instead on the basis of her need for bed rest and that she asked for the letters to state pregnancy as the basis for termination. It is strange that the court implies an effect of the pregnancy – needing bed rest – is different from the pregnancy.
Effects of this case on employment discrimination law
I think the court unintentionally (but maybe intentionally) opens the door to limiting protections for discrimination based upon medical conditions, whether temporary like pregnancy, or permanent like a lost limb. However, I do agree that the letters were not proof of discrimination, only that the employer complied with a former employee’s request for documents to state specific language.
Cato showed Anderson received the same treatment as any other part-time employee in need of extended leave. For that reason, the court rightly found in favor of the company because its treatment of employees was uniform, even if undesirable. Unfortunately, even though some people may not appreciate Cato’s policy of terminating part-time employees who need extended leave (and I am one of those) the law only requires that Cato mistreat all employees equally.
Employment lawyers in Texas for pregnancy discrimination
If you believe your employer discriminated against you on the basis of pregnancy or childbirth then you should contact Texas employment lawyers about your potential claims. Pregnancy discrimination claims are sex discrimination claims under federal and Texas employment law. Sex discrimination claims often have short statute of limitations to preserve your claim by filing with the EEOC or TWC. Employment lawyers in Texas understand how to file and protect your pregnancy discrimination claims.