7th Circuit Determines Statements May Be Direct Proof Of Bias In Makowski v. SmithAmundsen

Sometimes evidence that you have been discriminated against may be clear and direct. Other times evidence of discrimination may be indirect and is based on inference or presumption. In a recent case, Makowski v. SmithAmundsen, the 7th Circuit determined that a statement that reveals bias may be used as direct proof of job discrimination, and that these statements may be deemed “admissions” and not hearsay.

If you have questions concerning employment discrimination or believe that you have been suffered job discrimination, it is important to speak to a knowledgeable Georgia discrimination lawyer to determine your next steps.

In Makowski, a marketing director of a Chicago Law Firm sued for pregnancy bias and violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act after she was terminated following a pregnancy leave of absence.

In addition to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination “because of” your gender, Congress has passed some additional anti-discrimination laws that protect women in the workplace. One of these protections is the Pregnancy Discrimination Act that prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions. Rather than giving pregnant women special treatment, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act simply provides that pregnant women must be treated the same as non-pregnant individuals.

Additionally, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal employment law that allows eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave annually under certain circumstances, including the birth or care of a newborn or adopted child.

Here, Makowski gave notice of her pregnancy in the summer of 2007, and had a due date in December. She was placed on bed rest in early November and began taking her FMLA leave on November 26th. In January 2008 the firm’s executive voted to eliminate Makowski’s position. The Director of Human Resources, Molly O’Gara, later told her that she had been fired because she was pregnant and took leave. She was also told others had been discriminated against because they were pregnant and it might be good to speak with a lawyer about the possibility of a class action.

The Seventh Circuit determined that the Director’s statement could be used as direct evidence of pregnancy bias and FMLA violations, and that they did not constitute inadmissible hearsay as determined by the lower court. Rather, because the Director’s duties included making decisions regarding which positions to eliminate and who to terminate, as well as ensuring compliance with anti-discrimination laws – the statements could be considered “admission by a party-opponent.”

Often employees believe they have been the victims of discrimination, but have questions concerning how to prove they have been treated unfairly. A knowledgeable Georgia discrimination lawyer can help answer your questions and provide crucial guidance concerning your next steps. For more information, please contact the dedicated Atlanta employment attorneys at at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP for a confidential case evaluation.