No Charity Shown for Pregnant Employees by United Bible Fellowship Ministries

Although United Bible Fellowship Ministries claims its vision is to "be a visible, working, reflection of the body of Christ throughout the Houston area and the world by loving and glorifying God, serving others in love, and reaching out to those in need," that vision apparently doesn't include employing pregnant women.   

Sharmira Johnson, a former employee of the 501(c)(3) organization, was discharged after she became pregnant.  However, unlike many cases of pregnancy discrimination, which rely on circumstantial evidence, Ms. Johnson's claim rested on United Bible's written policy against pregnancy during employment.  

In fact, when Ms. Johnson informed her boss of her pregnancy, her boss gave her a memo entitled "Relief of Duty Due to Pregnancy."  U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. United Bible Fellowship Ministries, Inc., 4:13-cv-02871 (S.D. Tex. May 19, 2015).  That memo further stated "in accordance to the Policy of Pregnancy in the Workplace, will be relieved of duty pending your pregnancy and that upon your delivery you will be eligible for rehire for any direct care position we have available at that time."  Id.  Ms. Johnson filed a charge of discrimination alleging sex and pregnancy discrimination, after which the EEOC pursued legal relief on her behalf.  

The case ended up pending in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, where, after a bench trial, federal judge Vanessa D. Gilmore determined that United Bible violated the law.  The court awarded Ms. Johnson back pay as well as punitive damages, for a total of almost $75,000.  You can read more about the case here.

Although this case is somewhat unusual in the sense that most employers do not have policies that are so blatantly contrary to the law, it does serve as a good reminder for employers to periodically review their policies with legal counsel to ensure legal compliance.