In a case of first impression, the Third Circuit unanimously held that the term "related medical conditions" under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) includes an abortion. In Doe v. C.A.R.S. Protection Plus, Inc.
, 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 11519 (3d Cir. 2008), the employee sued her former employer, C.A.R.S. Protection Plus (CARS), for sex discrimination in violation of Title VII, (as amended by the PDA), when she was terminated after undergoing an abortion. The Third Circuit (representing NJ, DE, PA) reversed the District Court’s decision to grant the employer summary judgment, and remanded the case.
Jane Doe was a CARS’ employee for eleven months when she learned of her pregnancy. After amniocentesis disclosed severe birth defects, Doe decided to terminate her pregnancy. Thereafter, Doe took one week of vacation to recuperate from the procedure and the following week she was discharged for unexcused absences and for abandoning her job. Doe filed suit, alleging that she was fired because of her choice to undergo a surgical abortion, not because she was pregnant.
The PDA amends Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to expand the definition of the terms “because of sex” or “on the basis of sex” to include “because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.” Relying on this language, the legislative history of the PDA, and the EEOC guidelines, the Court determined that the term “related medical conditions” encompasses the decision to have an abortion and the PDA thus protects women who terminate their pregnancies.
Previously, the legal status of an abortion under the PDA had always been in question. This opinion now resolves that issue (at least in the Third Circuit).