When a California jury finds an employer acted in a retaliatory manner toward an employee because of her pregnancy or planned maternity leave, it may award substantial punitive damages as part of a company’s punishment for violating the civil rights laws. This is one of the probable outcomes in the case of a 38-year-old executive and filmmaker who worked for Netflix and filed a legal action against the company after she was fired. In her complaint, she claimed her male supervisor became “visibly agitated” and antagonistic toward her after she announced her pregnancy and upcoming maternity leave, as reported by Fast Company magazine.
The former Netflix employee alleges that after her announcement her supervisor began to ignore her, exclude her from meetings and also removed her from a show that she was working on. She claims that after discussing these issues with the company’s human resources department, her supervisor then tried to talk her into quitting. When she refused, she was fired. Despite a Netflix policy that provides new parents with unlimited leave through the company’s stated parental leave policy, the filmmaker alleges she was fired as an act of retaliation for becoming pregnant.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 prohibits employers from discriminating against a woman who is pregnant or who plans on becoming pregnant at some point in the future. It is considered a serious offense under the PDA to treat an employee differently because of her pregnancy, childbirth or any other medical issue that might arise as a result of gestation. The U.S. Department of Labor makes available details regarding the law and some employer guidelines outlining an employee’s rights at work when a woman becomes pregnant.