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Friday, June 27, 2014

Massage Envy Pregnancy Suit

By: Tommy Eden
 
Morgan McCloskey was hired to work as a front desk associate at Massage Envy located in the University area of Charlotte, North Carolina. On April 3- after she was hired but before she started work- McCloskey discovered she was pregnant using a home pregnancy test. When she started to work five days later, McCloskey told her supervisor that she was pregnant.

On April 12, after a doctor’s test confirmed her pregnancy, McCloskey was called into see two Massage managers who told her that “pregnant women should not be working” and that she was being let go; according to the lawsuit filed on Monday by the EEOC in U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina. The suit claims that the alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The suit seeks back pay, front pay and/or reinstatement, compensatory damages punitive damages and injunctive relief. The Case is EEOC v. CCR Wellness Investments, LLC, d/b/a Massage Envy.

Common Sense Counsel: In 2014 the EEOC has already cracked down on workplace pregnancy discrimination filing and settling 11 new cases since January. Following these five tips will keep you out of the EEOC’s litigation claws and protect pregnant workers’ rights:

1)    Prohibit Family Planning Interview Questions- never discuss whether a potential candidate is pregnant or plans to start a family. Questions should always stick to the job requirements as set forth in the written job description, such “as this position involves frequent overnight travel-would that be a problem?”

2)    Be Prepared to do the Reasonable Accommodation Dance- inform employees in your handbook that they have a right to raise accommodation requests, and then train managers to recognize when requests are being made. Look for comments about work causing pains or swelling of the feet and then see how you can work with the employee to keep them on the job.

3)    Making Assumptions on Job Accommodations is Risky- transfer of the pregnant employee to a light duty role because you think it is in the woman’s, or unborn child’s best interest, without first doing an objective evaluation of the worker’s ability to do the job may get you sued. Hire a good Doctor- rather than trying to play one.

4)    Train Manager What Not To Say- supervisors making “belly would be in the way of her work” comments will always show up on the big screen at trial

5)    Think Post Pregnancy- it is also about post-partum depression or limited physical strength issues when coming back from a difficult pregnancy.

Tommy Eden is a partner working out of the Constangy, Brooks & Smith, LLP offices in Opelika, AL and West Point, GA and a member of the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law and serves on the Board of Directors for the East Alabama SHRM Chapter. He can be contacted at teden@constangy.com or 334-246-2901. Blog at alabamaatwork.com.