A Coon Rapids dental office has settled a discrimination investigation with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) after allegedly firing an employee for being pregnant.
"State law has prohibited pregnancy discrimination for decades, and this case is a reminder how critical it is for employers to have supportive policies in place for pregnant employees," Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero said in a news release.
PL Dental will pay nearly $100,000 to Christina Vescio-Holland, whose doctor said she should start parental leave earlier than expected because she was pregnant with twins.
After informing her employer in late December 2020, the office manager "told Vescio-Holland that she decided to terminate her employment because Vescio-Holland was 'very hormonal,'" according to the MDHR.
The employer later said there were performance problems, but the department found "no credible evidence of concerns."
"I just want people to know that they have options when something like this happens. And don't give up just because one door closes — keep fighting," Vescio-Holland said in a statement.
PL Dental will be monitored for five years to ensure it complies with the settlement, which includes training and regular reporting.
"Pregnancy discrimination can include an employer denying a temporary reasonable accommodation to a pregnant employee or an employer firing or denying a promotion to an employee based on the employee's pregnancy," according to the MDHR.
The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received more than 2,200 reports of pregnancy discrimination last year, continuing a downward trend across the past decade.
But a Bipartisan Policy Center poll last year found 20% of mothers have experienced pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, and nearly a quarter "have considered leaving their jobs due to a lack of reasonable accommodations or fear of discrimination during a pregnancy."
Congress passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) last year, which requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide "reasonable accommodations" for pregnant workers. That went into effect this summer.
A Minnesota law that went into effect this summer goes even further and provides that employees, "regardless of their employer's size or amount of time for which they have worked for their employer, have a right to pregnancy accommodations and up to 12 weeks of unpaid pregnancy and parental leave," according to the Department of Labor and Industry.
After announcing a previous pregnancy discrimination settlement in 2020, the MDHR said the problem remains widespread.
"Pregnancy discrimination has serious consequences for people who are pregnant and their families," the state's civil rights agency said. "Not only do they risk losing their income, but they may also lose health insurance at a critical time."