In general, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) is a federal law that makes it unlawful to discriminate against an individual based of race, color, religion, national origin, or gender. In addition, under Title VII, it is unlawful to retaliate against an individual because the individual complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.
Here is a scenario: An employee is undergoing treatment for infertility treatment. The employee advises her supervisor about the treatment. However, the supervisor is concerned that the treatment will interfere with the employee’s job responsibilities, and shortly thereafter, the employee is demoted to a position with less significant job responsibilities.
In the above scenario, does the demotion constitute gender discrimination under Title VII? The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) answers this question in the affirmative.
Specifically, the EEOC states that “Employment decisions related to infertility treatments implicate Title VII under limited circumstances. Because surgical impregnation is intrinsically tied to a woman’s childbearing capacity, an inference of unlawful sex discrimination may be raised if, for example, an employee is penalized for taking time off from work to undergo such a procedure.” See EEOC Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues, Notice Number 915.003, June 25, 2015. In addition, issues under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) may also be implicated.
Based on the above, it is important that employees undergoing infertility treatment have a clear understanding of their rights in the workplace.