Employer Cleared in Pregnancy Discrimination Case

April 19, 2010 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – A federal appellate court has handed a former Iowa bank teller her second defeat in a lawsuit against her former employer over allegations it discriminated against her because she was pregnant.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling and declared that Amy Elam had not proven there was any connection between disciplinary actions taken against her by Regions Financial Corporation and her pregnancy.Circuit Judge Raymond W. Gruender, writing for the court, said that communications between bank executives about Elam’s case referring to her pregnancy status were not on their face discriminatory.

“… concern over the rights of aprotected employee ‘should be regarded as a natural reaction to the ever-present threat of litigation attendant upon terminating [a protected] employee,’ not evidence of discrimination,” Gruender wrote. “Elam presented no evidence that nonpregnant employees were allowed to leave their work stations abruptly at frequent intervals every morning. Instead, Elam erroneously suggests thatRegions’s refusal to give her special treatment was direct evidence of discrimination.”

Elam had worked for Regions as a teller in the company’s West Des Moines Iowa branch but was ultimately fired about three months after she began.

The company claimed Elam had suffered from frequent vomiting at work between approximately 8:00 and 10:30 a.m., causing her to abandon her teller station four to eleven times each morning to rush to the restroom.On one occasion, Elam abandoned her teller station in the middle of a transaction with a customer. Whenever Elam left her station, other tellers had to stop performing their own work in order to cover Elam’s station.

Elam also failed to secure the cash drawer at her teller station, which she attributes to leaving her station suddenly because of morning sickness. She also left unattended cash on the counter of her station, laid her head on the counter at her station, used her cell phone at her station, and failed to properly document customer transactions, the bank later claimed.

The case is Elam vs. Regions Financial Corporation, No. 09-2004, 8th Circ.