Charnelle Gilliard of Ewing, New Jersey began working for Trane, a subsidiary of Ingersoll Rand, in July 2010 as an assembler. In May 2012, upon the advice of her prenatal physician, Gilliard stopped working. She was approved for temporary disability benefits due to her pregnancy, and was expected to return to work on July 24. After the paperwork was submitted, a third-party benefits administrator contacted Gilliard’s prenatal physician seeking further information regarding Gilliard’s disability leave. The physician told the administrator that although Gilliard’s pregnancy was normal, he advised her to stop working in May because of how far along she was in her pregnancy. Trane refused to accept Gilliard’s request for medical leave during her final weeks of normal pregnancy and terminated her employment retroactive to her last day of work in May.
Last month, Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman and the Division on Civil Rights announced that the company agreed to pay Gilliard $55,000 to resolve allegations that it discriminated against her by terminating her employment after she took doctor-prescribed medical leave to accommodate the final weeks of her pregnancy. Trane also must pay $15,000 to the Division of Civil Rights. As part of the settlement, Ingersoll Rand has also agreed to revise its anti-discrimination policy.
New Jersey is one of several states that are expanding the employment protections and enforcement of those laws concerning pregnant employees.