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Employment discrimination laws protect fertility treatments

We've explained in other blogs that the EEOC is the federal agency that processes most discrimination cases prior to litigation being filed. The procedure is parallel from state to state, including Michigan. Where the agency finds cause, it will try to conciliate a settlement between the parties. If a settlement is not obtained the agency will issue a right to sue letter to the claimant. In limited instances, the EEOC will file the employment discrimination suit on behalf of the claimant.

It usually acts aggressively like that when it sees an issue of wide application or one that demonstrates the necessity of enforcement. Employment discrimination against women due to pregnancy is prohibited by Title VII and other federal and state laws. Pregnancy is also classified as a recognized disability, which means that employers must find reasonable accommodations where appropriate. A woman's undergoing of fertility treatments is also a recognized disability requiring accommodations.

Additionally, it's good to keep in mind the related issue that an employee cannot be fired for taking a pregnancy leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, a federal law that allows for family-related unpaid leaves-of-absence to qualified employees for specified reasons. There are several other state and federal laws that provide related protection in one form or another. It's best to consult with an employment law attorney to learn the protections for any particular situation.

In one case in Hawaii, a retail company discriminated against a woman when she began fertility treatments, and fired her when her pregnancy prevented her from making a buying trip. The EEOC stepped in and sued the company for gender discrimination and disability discrimination. Under a consent agreement, the company will pay her $60,000 and provide a neutral referral. The company will also revamp its policies and make them compliant with the civil rights laws.

In Michigan, a woman has the same protections described above. Employment discrimination for gender or disability reasons is prohibited on a number of levels. When challenged with seemingly illegal employment practices, an individual can quickly learn the rules, obligations and rights available by consulting with an employment law attorney.

Source: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Hawaii resort retailer to pay $60K pregnancy discrimination settlement, Gregg K. Kakesako, Dec. 11, 2013

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