The sad reality of business is that sometimes you have to terminate the employment of your staff for various reasons. Whether they engaged in misconduct, were incompetent at their job or even simply because you need to downsize, you’re eventually going to have to let people go. If the employee you are firing happens to be pregnant, there can be certain consequences for your business that you need to be prepared for, even if you do everything properly.
Even if you had no discriminatory intent in mind when you made the decision to terminate her employment, a pregnant employee might decide to bring a lawsuit for wrongful termination or discrimination against your company. She might allege that you decided to terminate her so that you wouldn’t have to pay for her maternity leave.
She could allege a violation of federal and state statutes, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act. This statute protects the rights of employees on maternity leave to not be fired simply for taking maternity leave.
She might also seek an investigation into your company by the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the California Department of Fair Housing and Employment.
If this happens to you, your attorney must be able to show real, demonstrable reasons why you decided to let her go. Your attorney must prove that you did not fire her merely to avoid having to pay for her maternity leave, but that there were other reasons – reasons that would justify firing any employee, regardless of whether she were pregnant or not.
If you are considering terminating the employment of an employee who just so happens to be pregnant, make sure you document everything. Keep detailed records that will help you to demonstrate in court the rationale behind the decision to terminate. Then, it will be more likely that you will be able to protect your company against an unfavorable judgment.