In Slater v.
Energy Services Group Int'l. Inc., 2011 WL 4425306 (11th Cir. Sept. 23,
2011), the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment for the
employer in a claim for pregnancy discrimination under Title VII and Florida's
state statutory equivalent, the Florida Civil Rights Act.
Since 1977, with the passage of the Pregnancy
Discrimination Act, pregnancy discrimination has been a recognized form of
gender discrimination. Claimants must meet the same standards for a prima
facie case, including rebutting legitimate, non-discriminatory bases for
termination by proving pretext.
In Slater, the plaintiff was terminated from her
position as a vision test technician after she allegedly failed to properly
administer a vision test. Plaintiff alleged that the true reason for her
termination was excessive absences related to her pregnancy. However, the
record showed that Defendant had disciplined her regarding attendance and other
performance issues before she ever became pregnant with both verbal and
Plaintiff also claimed retaliation based on an e-mail
that she sent one month prior to her termination attempting to assure her
superiors that she could perform her job despite being pregnant. The
Court held that this e-mail did not constitute "protected activity" triggering
a retaliation claim because Plaintiff was not complaining of pregnancy
discrimination, but rather simply sending a positive e-mail regarding her purported
ability to perform her job at a competent level.
This was a case with weak facts, which unfortunately does
no justice to the reality of pregnancy discrimination. While the case law
does not require an employer to excuse unlimited absences, employers must be
weary of assuming that pregnant employees will be problematic and give
these employees the benefit of the doubt in these temporary circumstances, or
face the prospect of a discrimination claim brought by a sympathetic
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