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If you were a welder who worked in an uncomfortable environment and you were transferred once you discovered you were pregnant, would you file a claim against your employer? That’s exactly the question that has a federal appeals court divided these days. The case made it to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati where it upheld a lower court’s ruling that addressed a woman’s claims that she was discriminated against and fired due to her pregnancy. The court panel is quoted as saying, “As a whole, the evidence is sufficient to raise a genuine issue of material fact whether JIM Management…subjectively viewed Spees’ pregnancy as rendering her unable to weld”.

The case, Heather Spees v. James Marine Inc. and JamesBuilt LLC, revolved around a woman who discovered she was pregnant shortly after being hired at a company that manufactures various dry docks, tank barges and other decks for the shipping industry. In 2007, Spees was hired at a Paducah, Kentucky location and within a few months, discovered she was pregnant. This resulted in the company transferring her to a “safer” environment in the tool room. Several days later, she was placed on the night shift and then a week after that, her doctor took her out of work and told her to remain on bed rest for the duration of the pregnancy. From there, she was terminated “for being pregnant”. A. Harrison Barnes, founder and lawyer, says the suit was subsequently filed one year later and alleged pregnancy discrimination and disability discrimination.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act protects women who are pregnant under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In short, women “who are pregnant or affected by pregnancy-related conditions must be treated in the same manner as other applicants or employees with similar abilities or limitations”.

The founder continues, saying an employer cannot refuse to hire a woman because she is pregnant, announces her intent to become pregnant or is recovering from any kind of pregnancy related issue. Further, says A Harrison Barnes, an employer may not fire a woman for those same reasons. The Act also is very clear on women who cannot perform their usual job duties due to pregnancy; and employer is obligated to treat her in the same manner as any other “temporarily disabled employee”. An employer can’t force a pregnant women to go home and return after she gives birth and her job ‘must be held open”. This, according to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, goes right to the heart of the case at hand.

As mentioned, the case has been remanded to a lower court again, and time will tell what the eventual outcome will be. Many lawyers are watching it closely as it could set precedence for other women in the future.

The case has been remanded back to the lower courts.

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