In the fall of 2012, three women filed suit against the National Basketball Association, or NBA, and its subsidiaries NBA Entertainment and NBA Properties for gender discrimination. The women claim that the NBA changed their work schedules to make it impossible for them to continue to work with the company due to child care concerns.
Lawsuit claims NBA forced working mothers to resign
The women worked for a print group in a creative division of the NBA. In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs claim that the NBA changed their work schedules from a regular nine-to-five shift to noon-to-eight without a valid business reason. For one plaintiff, the switch occurred while she was on maternity leave. She tried to return to work with the later shift, but found the change made it prohibitively difficult for her to find child care, forcing her to resign.
Shortly after the women resigned, the NBA reinstated the old nine-to-five shift. The plaintiffs claim this is a clear indication that the shift change was solely designed to purge the department of women with young children.
To provide more evidence for their claims, the plaintiffs also cite discrimination in who was allowed to work remotely during the time the shift changed to evening hours. The plaintiffs claim that male employees and women without children were given exceptions and were able to work remotely, while women with young children were continually denied this exception.
The lawsuit seeks $3 million in damages from the NBA for the gender discrimination.
A broader look at gender discrimination in the workplace
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prevents employers from discriminatingagainst employees or prospective employees on the basis of gender, including pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions. The law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees due to their gender in hiring and firing decisions, promotions, pay and other “privileges of employment,” which includes work shifts.
The law also makes it illegal to segregate or classify employees based on their gender in such a way that would affect their statuses as employees. In the NBA case, the plaintiffs argue that changing the work shift was an intentional attempt to force the women to resign.
Title VII also prohibits employers from discriminating against women who are pregnant, may become pregnant or have a pregnancy-related condition. Employers must allow pregnant workers to continue to work if they are able to perform all job functions and must allow women who must take a leave of absence due to a pregnancy-related condition to take the same amount of time that is given to employees for sick time or disability leave.
Additionally, employers must give women on pregnancy-related leave the same ability to accrue vacation time, seniority, pay increases and temporary disability benefits in the same manner as those on medical leave for non-pregnancy-related conditions.
Lastly, the Family and Medical Leave Act allows women to take 12 weeks of leave in a single 12-month period for the birth and care of a newborn child or for the care of a newly-placed adopted child. During this time, an employer cannot discriminate or retaliate against an employee for taking this leave.
If the plaintiffs win, the lawsuit against the NBA may have a positive effect on women in the workplace who have been discriminated against due to their role as mothers. If you feel you have been discriminated against due to your duties as a mother of young children, please contact an experienced employment attorney.