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Colorado Court Dismisses Pregnancy Discrimination Claim By Returning Mother Who Wanted to Avoid Travel

May an employer insist that an employee who is recently back from maternity leave comply with increased travel requirements that were instituted while she was out on leave? The answer, according to the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, is “yes.” In granting the employer’s motion for summary judgment in Hollstein v. Caleel & Hayden, LLC, the court held that an employee who returned from maternity leave “without restrictions” could not prevail on claims against the employer for Title VII discrimination under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”), the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), or the American with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). In that case, the plaintiff was an inside sales employee of the defendant and was required to travel one week out of every quarter. The employee took a maternity leave in 2009, during which time the employer increased the travel requirements for all inside sales employees from one week per quarter to one week per month. In December of 2009, the employee returned from maternity leave “without restrictions.” Upon learning of the increased travel requirements, the plaintiff requested that her travel be deferred for a number of months because she was “not mentally able to leave her son for a week.” The employer responded that the travel requirements were mandatory, and offered to transfer the employee to the customer service department if she wanted to avoid the increased traveling requirements.

In granting summary judgment in favor of the employer, the court found that the employee was not a member of a protected class under the PDA. Specifically, the court found that pregnancy is not a permanent condition, and the employer did not suffer from any medical conditions related to her pregnancy. The court held that the employee’s desire to avoid leaving her infant son was not a “medical condition,” and therefore the PDA offered no protection. Pointedly, the court explained that “the PDA offers no protection to persons whose child-rearing choices interfere with the requirements of their jobs.”

Similarly, the court found that the employee could not prevail on her FMLA claim because the increased travel requirements applied to all inside sales people, and were unrelated to the employee’s taking of FMLA leave. Stated another way, if the employee had not taken FMLA leave, she would still have been subject to the increased travel requirements.

Lastly, the court found that the employee could not prevail on her ADA claim because the employee did not establish a prima facie case showing that she was disabled. While the employee asserted that she was disabled because of postpartum depression, there was no evidence in the record establishing that the employee actually suffered from postpartum depression. Moreover, even if there was evidence that the employee suffered from postpartum depression, there was no evidence that such depression substantially limited one of her major life activities.