Subscribe to Inc. magazine

Terminating Pregnant Employees

Can you terminate an employee who is pregnant during her probation period?

Let's say a worker who is already on probation becomes pregnant. Can you still terminate her? As you might expect, that's not the best idea! Both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which applies to employers with 15 or more employees, and various state laws prohibit sex discrimination in employment decisions such as hiring, promotion, compensation, benefits, and termination. What's more, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 amended Title VII to specifically prohibit pregnancy discrimination as a form of sex discrimination. Such pregnancy discrimination includes discrimination against pregnant employees in employee benefit programs such as health insurance and disability leave.

The fact that the employee is within the probationary period should be inconsequential to your decision. I encourage you to consider job performance factors as primary considerations for termination throughout an employee's tenure. You should implement a consistent and equitable termination process.

In my opinion, you should also avoid the distinction of a "probationary period." By describing the initial period of employment as "probationary" you are by default describing the period after probation as different than during probation. That probation distinction could cause difficulty for employers as the employee's tenure increases. Although the employer may scrutinize a new employee more closely than a seasoned employee, I wouldn't recommend using different rules or measures to determine continued employability.

Copyright © 2000 LLC

Related resources:
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Facts about Pregnancy Discrimination
Small Business and the EEOC: An Overview

Register on today to get full access to:
All articles  |  Magazine archives | Livestream events | Comments

Or sign up using: