The California Supreme Court recently affirmed a decision from the California Court of Appeals, finding that employers can show a “mixed motive” defense in employment discrimination cases, if they can show that the employee would have been fired anyway for a non-discriminatory reason. In other words, if an employee is fired, and believes he or she was fired due to an illegal reason (like pregnancy), if the employer can show the employee would have been fired anyway, a court may not award damages.
Therefore, if you have been fired because you are pregnant, and you can show that pregnancy was the reason you were fired, your employer could be sued for damages, because it’s illegal to fire someone solely for being pregnant. However, if you became pregnant, but were also frequently late or absent, or do a poor job, and the employer has documentation of that, the employer can fire you for failing to properly perform your job without facing liability for employment discrimination.
In some cases, an employer may fire an employee for more than one reason. Maybe the employer doesn’t want to allow the employee to take maternity leave, but the employee is also not doing a good job. If the employee can show that the discrimination (in this case, pregnancy discrimination) is a “substantial motivating reason” for the termination, the employee can still be entitled to some damages, as well as attorney’s fees and court costs.
The bottom line is, if you are pregnant, you can’t be fired for being pregnant. However, pregnancy doesn’t act as a shield against termination either. If you perform poorly at work, or if your position is no longer needed, you can be fired – pregnancy will not guarantee you keep your job.
Micha Star Liberty at Liberty Law believes that employees shouldn’t have to fear losing their jobs because of pregnancy, so long as they are good employees. If you believe you were fired because of pregnancy in the San Francisco area, including Hayward, Oakland, and Tracy, contact Micha Star Liberty, San Francisco pregnancy discrimination attorney at 415-896-1000.