New mother can sue for pregnancy discrimination

A woman who was fired shortly after she returned from maternity leave can file a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit against her employer, says the Iowa Supreme Court. Although the woman obviously was no longer pregnant at the time she was fired, the court said this didn’t matter, because pregnancy discrimination includes discrimination against “women affected by pregnancy, childbirth and other related conditions,” so it includes a new mother.

The woman was the marketing director at a small company that made natural body care products. A few weeks after she was hired, she announced that she was pregnant. She claims that at the time, the company’s chairman asked her if she was going to “be like all those other women who find it’s this life-altering experience and decide to stay home.”

After her maternity leave, she returned to work part-time, and then a month later returned to work full-time. She was fired seven days later.

She claims company officials told her she wasn’t catching up fast enough, and that they had begun to doubt whether she was still committed to the job.

The woman sued under an Iowa law, but the Iowa law is very similar to the federal pregnancy discrimination law. Several federal appeals courts have ruled that discrimination against a new mother can qualify as pregnancy discrimination under the federal law.