Do Employers Treat Moms Differently Than Dads?

by Lindy Korn

According to a recent article in Law360, a former vice president of a large banking institution sued the bank in New York federal court for slashing her pay and ultimately firing her when she asked to work from home due to her high-risk pregnancies.

The woman who brought the lawsuit against her employer said the bank violated her rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act and New York State and city discrimination laws, noting that other employees were not penalized for working from home throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. However, when she asked for similar consideration due to her complicated pregnancies, the bank reduced her salary significantly and transferred her clients to a male colleague.

The employee claimed that her employer, like many others, believes that working mothers are too distracted by family matters, and that she was too preoccupied to work. She stated that when she was initially hired, she did not have children, and excelled at outperforming the men on her team. However, she said that everything changed when she was ordered by her doctor to work from home. A couple of months later, the bank cut her bonus back by $30,000 and told her that she would be fired if she did not return to work in person at the office.

Fearful of losing her job, the employee returned to work, but was hospitalized seven times and gave birth a month prematurely. Then, following a three-month maternity leave, she returned to find that most of her accounts had been given to a male co-worker, forcing her to start over. This resulted in further reductions in her earnings. In early fall 2020, after working from home for roughly seven months because of the pandemic, when she informed her supervisor that she was pregnant again, she was fired due to what the bank cited as a reduction in workforce.

The truth was, the bank retained a male employee who was less qualified, could be paid less, and who did not generate as much in profits. Then, just before her firing, the bank hired another male who wasn’t even licensed to do the job. In her complaint, the employee alleged a discriminatory attitude toward working mothers that not only cost her the job, but placed her health and pregnancy in serious danger.

This is a troubling example of masking the real reason for unfair treatment toward working moms, and using the pandemic to target them as a way to reduce the workforce. I hear stories like this all too often, and think it is important that women know their rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act. I urge both employers and employees to be aware of these rights, particularly if you have been a victim of this type of discrimination.

Lindy Korn, Esq. is an attorney in Buffalo who focuses on sexual harassment, age, disability discrimination, and more. See or call 716-856-KORN (5676).