Wall Street Journal on Wednesday examined a recent ruling by a three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that could strengthen legal job protections for women undergoing fertility treatments. The ruling, the first of its kind at the federal appeals-court level, stated that women who need time off for fertility treatment can use the Pregnancy Discrimination Act as potential protection against adverse action.
The case involved Cheryl Hall, a secretary who was fired after taking time off for in vitro fertilization treatments. Other courts have found that sex-bias protections do not apply to fertility treatments because both sexes experience infertility. However, the panel held that sex-bias protections do apply to IVF because only women undergo the treatment, which usually takes longer to complete than male infertility treatments. According to the Journal, the court did not rule on the merits of the case, but the ruling gives Hall a “green light to sue her former employer for pregnancy-related bias.”
According to the Journal, “The erratic nature of infertility treatment can be frustrating for some employers, interfering with planning, meetings and business travel.” Although some procedures require women to report to a clinic several times a month, others require significant recovery time. Eugene Hollander, Hall’s attorney, said, the ruling suggests women will have to worry less about the “repercussions of taking time off for” fertility treatment.
The Journal reports that the ruling expands a trend toward recognizing infertility as a medical problem. The Pacific Research Institute said 13 states have laws mandating insurance plans to pay for IVF. In addition, more employees are seeking time off for treatment under the Family and Medical Leave Act. According to the Journal, the ruling would “seem to clear the way” for employees to disclose infertility treatments to their employers, but most women still “keep it secret for personal reasons, assuming they have enough job flexibility to do so” (Shellenbarger, Wall Street Journal, 8/13).
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