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Pregnancy Discrimination at Work in Oregon and Failure to Accommodate Pregnancy Work Restrictions

Under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act Employers may not discriminate against their workers based on pregnancy or pregnancy-related disabilities.  This means that employers may not fire, refuse to hire, refuse to promote, or otherwise mistreat female workers because of their pregnancy (or ability to become pregnant).  That includes unlawfully passing up pregnant women for raises, benefits, training, and job assignments.  It also means that employers can’t retaliate against workers who complain about pregnancy discrimination. The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) prohibits those sorts of adverse employment actions and treats pregnancy discrimination as a form of sex discrimination.  Oregon also has state laws that are similar to the PDA and which protect pregnant women’s rights.

Work Restrictions related to your pregnancy

But what if your pregnancy stops you from performing your ordinary job duties?  Does your employer need to reassign you to another job within the company, one with lighter physical activity or less standing up?  Well, like many things in the law, it depends.

The PDA requires employers to treat employees who are disabled due to pregnancy the same way as it treats employees who are similarly disabled for other reasons.  For example, if the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires a company to provide reasonable accommodations to a retail stocker who cannot lift heavy weight because his back is injured, the company should also provide reasonable accommodations to a retail stocker who cannot lift heavy weight because she is pregnant.  The concept of reasonable accommodation is complicated, but it includes actions like assigning the worker to light duty temporarily or having him or her use special equipment to perform the job.  A company does not have to accommodate a worker if those accommodations would be too expensive or cause too much hardship to the worker.

A Supreme Court case from 2015, Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc., clarified how pregnancy discrimination work restriction cases play out.  First, a worker alleging intentional pregnancy discrimination needs to show that she belongs to a protected class of workers, that she asked for accommodation for her pregnancy-related work limitations, that the employer did not make reasonable accommodations for her, and that the employer did accommodate workers who although were not pregnant had similar work restrictions as the pregnant worker.  In the example above, the pregnant retail stocker could show that other stockers in similar jobs got reasonable accommodations for their disabilities, and that the employer was apparently treating pregnancy differently from conditions like back pain.  This lets courts and juries infer that the reason for the different treatment is intentional and unlawfully discriminatory.

Then, the employer must show “legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for denying her accommodation.” Id. at 21.  The expense or inconvenience of accommodating pregnant women in addition to disabled workers doesn’t count as a legitimate reason.  Id.  The worker may then say that these reasons are just a pretext – they may look legitimate and non-discriminatory on paper, but in reality, those reasons aren’t strong enough to justify the discrepancy in treatment. Id.   Finally, a jury decides which party they believe and whether the employer’s justifications are solid enough to overcome the worker’s allegations.

The EEOC interprets the ADA to mandate that employers accommodate workers for disabilities incurred off the job as well as those who were injured at work, and it also requires employers to accommodate workers with temporary as well as permanent disabilities. 29 CFR pt. 1630, App., § 1630.2(j)(1)(ix). This means that an employer must reasonably accommodate its workers with back pain due to short-term skiing injuries and its workers with back pain from pregnancy – or if it only accommodates the skier and not the pregnant woman, it needs to have a legitimate reason why.

Job Protection for Pregnant Workers in Oregon

Bottom line: if you think you have experienced workplace discrimination due to your pregnancy – lost benefits, unfavorable assignments, being fired or laid off (especially instead of given light duty or other accommodations), being passed over for a promotion or raise, and so forth – you may have a case for sex discrimination under federal and Oregon law.  Contact an employment lawyer and bring any documentation you may have.

Contact an Experienced Portland or Bend, Oregon Employment Lawyer

If you have been wrongfully terminated or seriously harassed at work, contact our Oregon Employment Attorneys today.   We offer a free initial case evaluation and handle cases on a contingency fee which means that you pay no money unless we recover.

We handle cases throughout the state including Bend and Portland Oregon, Redmond, Sisters, Prineville, Madras, Central Oregon, Multnomah County, Deschutes County, Salem, Eugene, Corvallis, Lane County, Medford, Gresham, Albany, Medford, Beaverton, Umatilla, Hermiston Pendleton, and Hillsboro.

Please act quickly, there is a limited time (Statute of Limitations) in which you can bring a claim under the law.

Employment Discrimination Against Transgender People in Oregon

Far too many transgender and gender non-conforming (GNC) people – those who identify as a different gender than that assigned to them at birth – face discrimination, harassment, and other indignities in the workplace every day.  Fortunately, the law is beginning to recognize the unfairly high rates of employment discrimination against transgender people, especially that against transgender people of color.

Transgender persons are being discriminated against at the workplace at very high rates

A recent report issued by the National Center for Transgender Equality highlighted the alarming rates of discrimination that transgender individuals face in the workplace, including:

  • Being fired for their gender identity or expression. 47% of transgender people said they had experienced employment discrimination due to transphobia, and 26% lost their jobs as a direct result of such bias. People with lower educational levels were particularly likely to be fired for their gender, as were black, Native, and mixed-race people.
  • Not being hired. 44% of respondents in the survey had been turned down for a job at least once because of their status as transgender or GNC.   Again, this sort of discrimination is particularly rampant against transgender people of color and low-income people.
  • Being passed up for promotion. 23% of transgender people in this study were passed up for promotion at work due to bias. Another 30% of respondents felt that if they sought promotions or raises, they would be at risk of discrimination.
  • Harassment and mistreatment from all sides, including: coworkers, managers, and customers. Nine out of ten transgender people have experienced this sort of harassment, or have needed to stay in the closet at work to avoid it. An astronomically high 78% of survey respondents reported direct employment mistreatment like this, such as:
    • Repeated, deliberate misgendering (using the wrong name/pronouns) (45%)
    • Invasive, personal questions (41%) and violations of confidentiality (48%)
    • Physical (7%) or sexual (6%) assault at work
    • General harassment (50%)
    • Being forced to present as the wrong gender (32%)
    • Choosing to hide their gender or transition (71%)
    • Not allowed/provided access to suitable bathrooms (21-22%)
  • High rates of unemployment and underemployment. One in four transgender people is underemployed, compared to less than one in ten people in the general population. The unemployment rate for trans people is twice that of the national average.
  • Discrimination against their partners and children by association with the transgender person.

Oregon’s laws protect transgender persons from workplace discrimination and harassment

Oregon was one of the first states to prohibit discrimination on the basis of one’s gender identity.  Recently, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) stated that transgender employees and job-seekers are protected from discrimination, because discrimination based on gender identity (as well as sexual orientation) is a form of sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

It is important to note that this is not a change in the language of Title VII itself; rather, it is a change in the way the EEOC interprets the law, and it is possible that a future EEOC administration could change its interpretation. However, the EEOC currently takes a robust position against discrimination of this kind.

Oregon Lawyers Protecting Transgender Individuals’ Rights

If you identify as transgender in Minnesota and have faced workplace discrimination due to your gender identity or presentation, or have been “migendered” by your employer contact the Oregon employment lawyers at Kuhlman Law.  Our firm handles Oregon transgender discrimination and harassment cases.

You deserve a workplace where you can be who you are – no jokes, no danger, no wrong pronouns, just an honest day’s work. 

We handle cases throughout the state including Bend and Portland Oregon, Redmond, Sisters, Prineville, Madras, Central Oregon, Multnomah County, Deschutes County, Salem, Eugene, Corvallis, Lane County, Medford, Gresham, Albany, Medford, Beaverton, Umatilla, Hermiston Pendleton, and Hillsboro.

Please act quickly, there is a limited time (Statute of Limitations) in which you can bring a claim under the law.

What is my sexual harassment lawsuit worth?

Valuing Sexual Harassment Claims in Oregon

One of the many questions that we are often asked by potential clients at our initial intake meeting is if they pursue their claim, is what amount of compensation they will receive or should expect if they pursue their case.  While this is certainly an important question, the answer can depend on several factors.

Under the law, there are different categories of monetary compensation that victims of sexual harassment can seek.  (lawyers and judges refer to these as “damages”).  Under Oregon’s state sexual harassment law, victims can seek the following categories of damages:

Lost Wages and Benefits:

In many sexual harassment cases, there can be a component of wage loss involved relating to the sexual harassment.  For example, if the victim comes forward and reports the sexual harassment and is fired because of the report, he or she can seek their lost income and any lost benefits such as medical and retirement benefits as a result of the wrongful termination.   Or, if the victim has not been fired, but the sexual harassment was so offensive if forced them to take a medical leave of absence to seek necessary mental health therapy or treatment to help them overcome the harassment, the victim can seek their lost wages and benefits for their time away from work.

If the sexual harassment victim is improperly terminated and finds another job before trial or settlement, but the job pays less or offers decreased benefits, the victim can claim the difference between her old job and the new job.

Depending on the circumstances, lost wages can also include:

  • Lost stock options;
  • Retirement benefits;
  • Vacation pay;
  • Sick pay;
  • Bonuses;
  • Commissions.

Future Wage Loss and Future Benefit Loss:

If the victim of sexual harassment has been unable to find suitable and similar employment after their wrongful termination, they can seek future wage loss and the loss of their future benefits for a period of time carrying on into the future.  The amount of future wage loss can depend on the circumstances.  For example, a victim who works in a specialized job field with few employers  or where there are limited job opportunities could argue that they will be unlikely to find similar employment  in their field and make the argument that their future wage loss should be significant.

Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages are expenses that the victim of sexual harassment has had to incur as a result of the sexual harassment.  One of the largest compensatory damage components in a sexual harassment case is usually medical bills.  If the sexual harassment was particularly severe or pervasive, and required the victim to seek medical treatment or therapy, these damages can be pursued as compensatory damages.

Emotional Harm Damages

Often, the most devastating harm of sexual harassment in the workplace is the mental anguish that it causes the victim.  Being subjected to a hostile work environment and repeated sexual advances takes an enormous toll on the victim’s mental health.  Sexual harassment makes coming into work each day a nightmare and can cause, anxiety, fear, humiliation, shame, and depression.  Frequently, the victim thinks about the sexual harassment long after the workday has ended and which can cause lack of enjoyment for life’s activities and difficulty sleeping and eating.  Emotional harm damages are designed to compensate the victim for their loss of enjoyment of their life and their career as a result of the unlawful sexual harassment.

Punitive Damages:

Punitive damages are damages that can be awarded simply to punish the employer for fostering a work environment where pervasive sexual harassment occurs or failing to remedy it in a timely manner.  The extent of punitive damages will depend much on how offensive or negligent the employer’s handling of the situation was.

Attorney’s Fees and Costs

The victim of sexual harassment can also seek to have the Court order the other side to award attorney’s fees and their costs of bringing the lawsuit as well.

Contact an Experienced Oregon Sexual Harassment Lawyer Today

As you can see, there are many varying factors in determining a sexual harassment victim’s compensation.

If you have been wrongfully terminated or seriously sexually harassed or sexually assaulted at work, contact our Oregon Employment Attorneys today.   We offer a free initial case evaluation and handle cases on a contingency fee which means that you pay no money unless we recover.

We handle cases throughout the state including Bend and Portland Oregon, Redmond, Sisters, Prineville, Madras, Central Oregon, Multnomah County, Deschutes County, Salem, Eugene, Corvallis, Lane County, Medford, Gresham, Albany, Medford, Beaverton, Umatilla, Hermiston Pendleton, and Hillsboro.

Please act quickly, there is a limited time (Statute of Limitations) in which you can bring a claim under the law.