At this stage in the game, it is very well known that you simply cannot discriminate against an employee based on the grounds of pregnancy. However, it would seem some companies never learn!
In the latest case, Florida-based insurance firm Brown & Brown has been ordered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to pay $100,000 and take “other remedial measures” after they rescinded a job offer to a woman mere minutes after she inquired about the company’s maternity benefits!
According to the EEOC lawsuit, the insurance broker made a written job offer to an applicant, and even went so far as to send her an employment agreement for a “personal lines technical assistant” position and propose a few potential start dates. However, after the employee affirmed her interest, she requested to speak with the department leader’s assistant about maternity benefits because she was pregnant. The assistant immediately advised the department leader of the applicant’s pregnancy and, mere minutes later, the applicant received an email from the company taking the job offer off the table on the grounds that it “had a very urgent need to have somebody in the position long term,” and adding that “we appreciate you telling us beforehand.”
The applicant subsequently logged a complaint with the EEOC, who then filed suit in a US district court after the insurance broker declined to participate in a pre-litigation settlement. Now, on top of the hefty fine, the company must also, as part of the consent decree, adopt and distribute a policy on pregnancy discrimination; train supervisors and HR personnel at all locations about gender discrimination, including pregnancy discrimination; and provide annual info to the EEOC during a two-year monitoring period concerning its handling of any or all pregnancy discrimination complaints.
Word to the wise: If an employee – or a candidate for that matter – announces their pregnancy, the only thing you can really offer is a hearty congratulations!