Hawaii law provides clear protections for pregnant employees, and employers who disregard these protections will be held accountable, as emphasized by a recent Hawaii Civil Rights Commission (HCRC) settlement. Last week, the Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations announced that a Hilo employer settled a pregnancy discrimination complaint brought by an employee who claimed that her employer failed to reinstate her after pregnancy-related disability leave, denied her a reasonable accommodation for a pregnancy-related disability, and terminated her because of her pregnancy.
Under Hawaii law, an employer is prohibited from discriminating against pregnant employees and must provide such workers with reasonable accommodation for disabilities due to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. Employers are required to provide leave to employees with pregnancy-related medical conditions, with or without pay, for a reasonable time as determined by the employee's physician. They must likewise reinstate employees returning from pregnancy leave to the same position or one of comparable status and pay.
In this case, the employee claimed that her manager made negative and derogatory comments about the inconvenience her pregnancy had caused the company. She alleged that she was instructed to remove her possessions from the workplace a few weeks after beginning pregnancy leave to "make room" for newly hired workers. She claimed that she was subsequently refused reinstatement after her physician released her to return to work.
She filed a Charge of Discrimination with the HCRC and the agency determined that there was reasonable cause to believe that discrimination had occurred. The parties conciliated the matter and settled prior to the issuance of a final HCRC decision. As part of the settlement, the employer agreed to pay the employee $65,000, as well as to adopt a non-discrimination policy, and provide non-discrimination training for its supervisors and managers.