The Hard Lesson Brown & Brown Learned about Pregnancy Discrimination

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Under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), “an employer cannot refuse to hire a woman because of her pregnancy-related condition as long as she is able to perform the primary functions of her job.” Women who are let go or not hired because they are or may become pregnant may lose not only valuable income but also health insurance and other work benefits during a time when their budgets may already be tight.

Pregnancy discrimination is still a major issue in the United States and particularly in Florida, which ranked eighth for the highest share of charges relative to the number of women in the workforce between 2011 and 2015. In one recent case in Daytona Beach, a job offer was withdrawn by a brokerage firm when they found out the job applicant was pregnant.

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Equal Treatment for Pregnant Employees During the Hiring Stage

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), in 2015 Brown & Brown Insurance Brokerage Firm made a written job offer to the job applicant, along with start dates and an employment agreement for the position of “personal lines technical assistant” at its Daytona Beach office.

After the offer was made, the applicant expressed her interest through email and inquired if she could ask some questions about the position. A couple of hours later she spoke to the department leader’s assistant and asked about maternity benefits because she was pregnant. According to the suit, the assistant promptly informed the department leader about the candidate’s pregnancy. Minutes later the applicant received an email that retracted the job offer, saying that the firm “had a very urgent need to have somebody in the position long term . . . We appreciate you telling us beforehand.”

As a result of the rescinded offer, the applicant brought a case against Brown & Brown for pregnancy discrimination, which violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The EEOC first attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process, but when that was unsuccessful, it filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division.

Brown & Brown eventually reached a settlement with the plaintiff, agreeing to pay $100,000 and providing significant relief, which includes adopting a policy addressing pregnancy discrimination. The firm will provide training on sexual discrimination, and specifically pregnancy discrimination, to its managers, supervisors, and HR personnel at its Daytona Beach location and all of its employees throughout Florida. In addition, the firm will be required to provide information as it relates to pregnancy discrimination complaints to the EEOC during a two-year monitoring period.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act mandates that pregnant employees or job applicants have to be regarded in the same manner as non-pregnant employees or applicants who have the same ability or inability to work. As EEOC Miami District Regional Attorney Robert Weisberg stated,

“The decision to hire should be based upon an applicant’s qualifications, not stereotypical assumptions about pregnancy, motherhood or other caretaking responsibilities.”

At Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A., we advocate for equal treatment in the workplace and take discrimination seriously. Please access our Guide to Protecting Yourself Against Pregnancy Discrimination Guide today or call us to schedule your free consultation.

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