Friday, January 13, 2006

Insensitive Employer of the Week

From the AP:

A Houston firefighter took a promotion test 12 hours after giving birth because fire officials wouldn't bend the department's policy to allow a postponement.

Beda Kent gave birth to a healthy baby daughter at 9 p.m. Tuesday, slept for about 2 1/2 hours and then took the Houston Fire Department captain's exam at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

"It was uncomfortable," said Kent, a 12-year veteran of the department. "I had my Motrin -- thank God -- but that only lasts for so long."

Civil service regulations mandate that everybody take the test at the same time, District Chief Jack Williams said. A person who is given a temporary reprieve could gain an unfair advantage if they learn about the test from other test-takers, he said.

The rest of this heart-warming story can be read here.

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I hate to take an employer's side, but isn't their concern here legitimate? Not the subjective "she might hear about the test from others" part, but the civil service regulations. If she had scored high enough on a later test to on the promotion-eligible list, wouldn't the highest-scoring person not promoted file suit against the department, asserting that the test had not been administered in conformance with civil service law?

Posted by: Donald | Jan 13, 2006 5:33:36 PM

Donald: I'm not saying one way or another whether this woman has a federal or state pregnancy discrimination claim (I think we would need more facts), but I assume you would agree with me that if she could make out such a federal and/or state claim, that such a claim would supersede any state civil service regulation? For a somewhat analogous example of case where a PDA claim was made out even in light of a nondiscriminatory civil service regulation, see Adams v. Nolan, 962 F.2d 791 (8th Cir. 1992).

Posted by: Paul | Jan 13, 2006 6:32:20 PM

Having represented fire fighters (including Philly's Local 22) and handled more civil service exam cases than I'd care to think about, I'd have to agree with Donald that the city was in something of a bind. If they bent the civil service rules, other test-takers would certainly have brought challenges. So I don't see the city's action as heartless; more a matter of bureaucratic rationality. Still, as Paul notes, that wouldn't necessarily be a defense to a PDA claim.

Posted by: The Continental Op | Jan 13, 2006 9:33:53 PM

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