When thinking about pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, it is natural to assume that pregnant women are the ones being targeted. After all, how could someone be discriminated against at work due to pregnancy if they are not pregnant?
Maybe it is less common, but what about spouses and co-parents? That is the argument behind an employment discrimination suit filed in federal court in New York against Disney. The plaintiff in the lawsuit accuses his managers of spying on him and ultimately firing him after he completed paternity leave.
The man worked for Disney Streaming Service until losing his job. He says that managers mysteriously began discussing the wisdom of having children with him. His wife was pregnant at the time, but he had not told anyone at work about it. Instead, he believes his managers hacked his computer and were monitoring his personal emails, where they found out about the coming baby.
After his child was born, the man took paternity leave but was fired shortly after he returned to work.
Can pregnancy discrimination affect non-pregnant employees?
One of the big issues in this case will be whether the plaintiff has standing to sue under New York’s Human Rights Law and Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act. Employment discrimination laws are designed to give members of protected classes the right to sue after they are discriminated against. Pregnant women are considered to be a protected class. But so far, their husbands, wives and unmarried co-parents have not been.
Still, these laws intend to prevent employers from discriminating against employees due to pregnancy and impending parenthood. Arguably, they could discriminate against the non-pregnant parent as easily as against the pregnant partner — especially as paternity leave becomes increasingly common. It will be interesting to see what happens in this lawsuit.
Challenging pregnancy discrimination at work
If you or your wife has been the victim of workplace discrimination based on pregnancy, don’t hesitate to learn more about your legal rights. Speak to an employment law attorney about your options.