Hawaiʻi Civil Rights Commission (HCRC) Executive Director William Hoshijo today announced the settlement of a complaint brought by an employee against a Hilo business, alleging that her employer failed to reinstate her after a pregnancy-related disability leave, denied her a reasonable accommodation for her pregnancy-related disability, and terminated her because of her pregnancy.
The employee claimed that after she informed her immediate supervisor that she was pregnant, her manager made negative and derogatory comments about the inconvenience caused by her pregnancy. She was told by her manager that the company could not hire temporary employees to accommodate her need to take pregnancy-related leave. Approximately 1½ weeks after beginning unpaid pregnancy-related disability leave, she was told to remove her things from the workplace to “make room” for two newly hired employees. After giving birth and after being released to return to work by her physician, the company refused to reinstate the employee and terminated her employment.
Hawaii’s fair employment law protects pregnant employees by requiring employers to provide leave for an employee who has a pregnancy-related disability, with or without pay, for a reasonable time to be determined by the employee’s physician. State law also requires reinstatement to the pregnant employee’s original job or to a position of comparable status and pay when the employee is released to return to work after pregnancy-related disability leave. Finally, state law prohibits termination because of pregnancy.
Employers are allowed to require a pregnant employee to obtain medical verification of her inability to work due to pregnancy-related disability.
Under the terms of settlement, the employer agreed to pay $65,000 to the employee, adopt a non-discrimination policy, and provide non-discrimination training for its supervisors and managers. The case was settled in conciliation, after a determination that there was reasonable cause to believe that illegal discrimination occurred, but before litigation and before a final decision was issued by the Commission.
“Although the identity of the parties is confidential at this stage,” explained HCRC Executive Director Hoshijo, “the settlement serves as an important reminder that pregnancy discrimination is unlawful.” Hoshijo added, “We used to see more pregnancy discrimination complaints, but now see fewer as employees and employers learn more about their rights and responsibilities under our civil rights laws.”
The Hawaiʻi Civil Rights Commission is responsible for enforcing state civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, and state-funded services.
If you feel you have been subjected to discrimination or harassment because of your sex, based on pregnancy or pregnancy-related disability, contact the HCRC at: telephone (808) 586-8636, or email DLIR.HCRC.INFOR@hawaii.gov.
For more information on pregnancy discrimination, go to the HCRC webpage at: http://labor.hawaii.gov/hcrc/files/2013/01/INFOpreg1.pdf.
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