In Massachusetts, employers with six or more employees are prohibited from discriminating against an employee because of her pregnancy under General Laws chapter 151B. Any employee who can sue under chapter 151B must file a complaint with the Massachusetts’s Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) within 300 days of the act that the employee is alleging is discriminatory. After 90 days, the employee can elect to remove the case from the MCAD and pursue the claim in Superior Court.
Employers with fewer than six employees can also be sued for pregnancy discrimination, but under a different law: the Massachusetts Equal Rights Act (MERA). Complainants who file under MERA are not required to file with the MCAD first, but can proceed directly to Superior Court with their claim.
Tracy Thurdin was hired in February 2005 to work for a small information technology business, SEI Boston. Two months later, she informed her employer that she was pregnant and due in June. She told her supervisor that she could perform all the essential duties of the job. The next day her supervisor told her that he was upset that she was pregnant and requested she take voluntary unpaid leave. Ms. Thurdin refused. Her supervisor went on to chastise her that is was unethical that she had not revealed her pregnancy during her interview and that it would place a burden on the company. Ms. Thurdin telephoned her attorney, a friend, and her husband saying that she believed she was being discriminated against because of her pregnancy. This conversation was overheard by another employee who repeated it to her supervisor. Her supervisor told her to leave for the day and subsequently placed Ms. Thurdin on unpaid administrative leave because of her pregnancy.
Ms. Thurdin sued SEI Boston under MERA. The Superior Court dismissed the case, finding that chapter 151B was the exclusive remedy for pregnancy related discrimination. However the Supreme Judicial Court reversed. It found that “a party aggrieved by employment discrimination based on pregnancy who is precluded from using [chapter 151B] may assert a claim under MERA.” It also found that MERA not only applied to hiring decisions, but also discrimination during the course of employment.
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