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Woman's pregnancy bias claim against health system reinstated

Posted On: Jun. 18, 2015 12:00 AM CST

The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 prohibits an employer from discriminating against a woman because of her capacity to become pregnant, says a federal appeals court, in reinstating a pregnancy discrimination charge filed by a fired health care worker.

Khadara-Ayan Yousuf, a Muslim woman of Somali national origin, had filed discrimination charges against her former employer, Minneapolis-based Fairview Health Services, claiming she had been discriminated against on the basis of her national origin, race, sex, pregnancy and religion when it terminated her employment, purportedly for failing to return from a leave of absence, according to Thursday’s ruling by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals St. Louis in Khadara-Ayan Yousuf v. Fairview Health Services, doing business as University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview.

A three-judge 8th Circuit panel upheld a ruling by the U.S. federal court in Minneapolis granting Fairview summary judgment dismissing the national origin, race, and religion charges, but reinstated the pregnancy discrimination charge.

“Despite Yousuf’s assertions that (Fairview) had assumed she was pregnant, the District Court relied solely on her failure to present evidence showing that (Fairview) was aware of her pregnancy, and thus deduced she could not show that (Fairview) discriminated against her on the basis of her pregnancy other sex,” said the ruling.

However, the District Court “failed to recognize” that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Act, “also prohibits an employer from discriminating against a woman because of her capacity to become pregnant,” said the ruling, in remanding the case to the lower court.

U.S. lawmakers are considering stronger protections for pregnant workers.