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Chiropractor sues former employer for pregnancy discrimination

Dr. Mary Beamer, a Pennsylvania chiropractor, missed 11 days of work in 2007 with hyperemesis gravidarum, a severe form of morning sickness related to her pregnancy. Despite the fact that she had various medical appointments and emergency-room visits and submitted doctors' notes, these 11 days turned out to alter the course of her life. Her employer fired her and terminated her health insurance benefits without even sending her a termination letter, she claimed in her lawsuit.

Dr. Beamer sued her employer, alleging employment discrimination based on her sex and pregnancy. Her employer countersued, claiming that by failing to show up for work, Dr. Beamer breached her four-year employment contract and owes $50,000 for training and lost patient services under the terms of the contract. Trial of the case is set for May.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is addressing the issues of pregnancy discrimination. The EEOC sponsored a public meeting in Washington, D.C. that featured expert speakers, some of whom called for the EEOC to issue updated guidelines for courts and employers due to the problem of inconsistencies in how courts enforce the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

Under the Act, it is illegal to discriminate against a woman "because of pregnancy, childbirth or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth." Experts also point to other sources of federal law that protect employees who take maternity and paternity leave but need to be updated - notably, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Source: ABC News, "New Jersey Woman Alleges Pregnancy Discrimination While EEOC Calls for Updates to Laws," Susanna Kim, February 16, 2012.

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