Krista Errickson has refused to be a mere addition to the ever growing statistics related to pregnancy discrimination at American workplace.
Instead, she has filed a lawsuit against her former employer Faye Wattleton. Ironically, Wattleton represents a non-profit working in the sphere of women’s rights, Center for the Advancement of Women.
Jack Tuckner, who represents Ms Errickson says, “Krista’s devastation is significantly compounded by the dawning paradoxical realization that actual workplace equality is not available to women even within a progressive non-profit, and in this case, her own reproductive rights have, got in the way of the mission. She is deeply distraught and confounded.”
New York Daily News reports that “Errickson is one of a growing number of women who claim they are being treated unfairly by employers simply because they are pregnant or hope to be. While working mothers have made strides in achieving a balance between their home and work lives, the number of pregnancy discrimination charges has nonetheless been rising at an alarming pace.”
Monday, May 19th 2008, 4:00 AM
Executive assistant Krista Errickson had a miscarriage just weeks after starting her $85,000-a-year job.
Then, within days of returning to work at her midtown office, she was fired.
Errickson is one of a growing number of women who claim they are being treated unfairly by employers simply because they are pregnant or hope to be.
While working mothers have made strides in achieving a balance between their home and work lives, the number of pregnancy discrimination charges has nonetheless been rising at an alarming pace, according to the federal government.
And as the economy slows, pregnant employees could be on the frontline of layoffs, employment lawyers said.
“I’m seeing working mothers being given baseless performance warnings,” Manhattan attorney Miriam Clark said. “When there is a market downturn, there is a negative effect on pregnant women.”
Errickson -a 44-year-old former actress who starred years ago in the TV show “Hello, Larry” – had been working for Faye Wattleton, president of the not-for-profit Center for the Advancement of Women, when her pregnancy ended suddenly.
While recovering from her miscarriage in Pelham, N.Y., where she lives with her boyfriend, she called her boss to tell her she would be out for a few days.
Wattleton, a nationally known women’s rights advocate who previously served as president of Planned Parenthood, asked her whether she planned to try again to have kids, according to Errickson’s discrimination complaint filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Errickson said yes, adding that she’d be seeking in-vitro fertilization, a time consuming process.
Five days later, on Errickson’s first day back, Wattleton let her go, claiming Errickson had blundered by not reading her an important e-mail correctly, according to her complaint.
But Errickson insists her only fault was being a woman aiming to get pregnant. “She fired Krista from her job because she is a woman capable of having a baby,” said Manhattan lawyer Jack Tuckner, who’s representing Errickson.
Wattleton’s lawyer, Martin Gold, called Errickson’s claim “utterly frivolous,” and noted that his client “is one of the last people on earth who would want to discriminate against a woman.”
Nonetheless, the former assistant, now working freelance jobs to make ends meet, vowed to pursue her case.
“This is a horrible blow,” Errickson said.
In the past, as troubled employers moved to shrink their ranks, some women claim bosses looked first at pregnant workers or new moms.
Nationally, pregnancy discrimination claims filed with the EEOC and state and local agencies surged last year, hitting a record high of 5,587, 14% more than 2006 and up 40% from a decade ago.
In New York City, pregnancy discrimination cases jumped 10% last year to 100, more than double the number of a decade ago.
In addition to the weak economy, complaints are rising because women are more vigilant about reporting alleged discrimination, experts said.
Just weeks ago, 54 more women joined a class-action suit filed by the EEOC against Bloomberg L.P., the financial information and media giant founded by Mayor Bloomberg.
The Bloomberg employees claim they were demoted or had their salaries reduced after disclosing their pregnancies or after returning from maternity leave.
In a statement, Judith Czelusniak, a company spokeswoman, said Bloomberg “is a global company with more than 10,000 employees in 126 offices. Since its founding in 1981, the company has employed more than 12,000 people in the United States and fewer than two dozen employment lawsuits have been filed against the company in the U.S.” Czelusniak added that, “Last month, the U.S. District Court in New Jersey dismissed an employment discrimination suit by four current and former employees, finding that the plaintiffs’ allegations were baseless. We believe that the court will render a similar judgment in the case brought by the EEOC.”
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 prohibits an employer from firing, refusing to hire or denying a promotion to a worker on the basis of pregnancy. Pregnant women must be treated the same as their peers.
“Any negative comments or actions related to your pregnancy status are illegal,” Tuckner said.
Yet, by law, women are not entitled to special treatment just because they are pregnant.
While cases of bias against pregnant women have been around as long as women have been in the workforce, lawyers say they are seeing more cases where moms who get pregnant are especially targeted.
“There is a perception that women getting pregnant the second time won’t go back,” Clark said. “She has reached the tipping point.”
Women who believe they’ve been treated unfairly have options. First, register your complaints with your company’s human resources department, said Michelle Caiola, a lawyer in the EEOC’s New York office. If the issue does not get resolved, contact the EEOC.
Most importantly, women should be aware of their rights and consider taking action if they feel their rights have been violated.
Employers “shouldn’t be making any decisions based on pregnancy,” Manhattan employment lawyer Anne Clark said.