This week in family responsibilities discrimination news, we reflected on the past, worked to make repairs in the present, and revealed how the future will (hopefully) look.
Reflecting on the Past
50 years of Griswold
This week marked the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Griswold v. Connecticut. The landmark opinion made it possible for married couples to legally obtain contraception on the grounds of an unenumerated constitutional right to privacy. Griswold has had far-reaching effects in Supreme Court decisions over the last 50 years. For the first time, the Court acknowledged a “zone of privacy” created by the “penumbras and emanations” of a few amendments of the Constitution. This laid the groundwork and created the legal theory for Roe v. Wade (prohibiting states from regulating abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy) and its progeny, as well as Lawrence v. Texas (prohibiting states from regulating intimate consensual same-sex relationships).
In many ways, it is the rationale behind Griswold that justifies present-day workplace protections for women and families: if the state should leave private decisions about family planning to the individual, employers certainly should not interfere with or discriminate on the basis of those decisions. To read more about Griswold and how it started “a revolution,” see this post from Justicia.
Repairing in the Present
Professor Files Suit for FMLA Discrimination
When Assistant Professor Sara Kubik became pregnant in 2013, she requested Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave to care for and bond with her new baby. She also requested a tenure clock extension to compensate for her time pregnancy-related time off. However, what she faced was harassment and retaliation for requesting FMLA leave and reasonable accommodations for her family responsibilities. When her department voted not to reappoint Kubik, she lodged a complaint with the university. A few months later, she filed a charge of sex discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). A higher-ranking faculty member told the school newspaper that Kubik had created a “hostile work environment” when she filed the charge with the EEOC. Even after the dean overturned the faculty’s decision, Kubik’s department voted again to not reappoint her. This week, she filed suit for sex discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, and retaliation. Read the whole story on Central Michigan Life.
Nasty Gal Fired Four Employees for Pregnancy
The fashion company, Nasty Gal, had a suit filed against it this week by former employee Aimee Concepcion. Concepcion accuses the company of illegally firing her—and three other employees—after announcing her pregnancy. While the company claims that Concepcion and the others were fired during a round of layoffs and that their terminations had nothing to do with the employees’ pregnancies, firing employees who are pregnant and about to go on leave raises significant questions about pregnancy discrimination. Concepcion’s suit seeks damages for sex discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, wrongful termination, and breach of contract. Learn more from Fashionista.
Iowa Pregnancy Suit Set for Trial
In Iowa, a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit was set for trial this week. Heather Villegas was fired from her employment at S & K Enterprises after becoming pregnant. Villegas noted that when announcing her pregnancy to her boss, he told her that “she should have discussed her pregnancy plans with him before becoming pregnant.” A few months later, the company laid Villegas off, citing concerns about the approaching winter and their liability if she were to slip and fall at work or have exposure to chemicals dangerous to her unborn child. Trial in this case is set for August 16, 2016. Read more from the Globe Gazette.
Revealing the Future
MoCo Bill Would Provide for Seven Paid Sick Days Per Year
If Montgomery County is at all representative of what the future looks likes for working families, the future is looking a bit brighter. This week, the Montgomery County Council Committee on Health and Human Services voted to send a bill to the full council for a vote that would require all Montgomery County employers to offer seven days of paid sick leave per year. The leave could be used for personal or family illness and even for court dates in domestic violence cases. If the bill passes, Montgomery County would follow numerous other cities and counties across the nation that are legislating workplace protections for families. Learn more about the Bill from WTOP.