Resource technician Shamira Johnson filed a lawsuit against her Houston-based employer United Bible Fellowship Ministries, Inc., a care facility for disabled people, after they fired her for becoming pregnant. According to the EEOC complaint, the nonprofit maintained a “no pregnancy in the workplace” policy that meant it refused to hire pregnant women and fired employees once they became pregnant.
ThinkProgress reports that United Bible Fellowship admitted that Johnson performed her job well, but argued that its policy “was justifiable in order to ensure her safety, that of her unborn baby, and the safety of its clients.” But U.S. District Court Judge Vanessa D. Gilmore disagreed.
[The court] found that United Bible “recklessly” failed to comply with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, race, religion, and other characteristics, by having the anti-pregnancy policy. The organization also has a contract with the Texas government, which requires it to comply with anti-discrimination laws. The court held that it failed to show that all pregnant women are unable to perform their duties safely. The judge awarded Johnson about $25,000 in back pay and overtime plus interest, as well as $50,000 in damages for emotional and mental suffering.
While United Bible Fellowship’s policy was incredibly blatant in its discrimination, the case represents a certain ideology that follows pregnant women in the workplace. It’s estimated that nearly a quarter million pregnant women a year face discrimination in the workplace—everything from firing to being refused minor accommodations—an increasing problem since the majority of American women now remain in the workplace throughout their pregnancies.
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