Ohio Supreme Court – Pregnancy Ruling

Kegler Brown E-mployment Alert

If an employer has a policy that uniformly does not allow a medical leave of absence to any employee who has not been employed for at least a year, can the employer enforce the policy to deny leave to a pregnant employee? The Ohio Civil Rights Commission and the 5th District Court of Appeals both said “No – pregnancy is different, and medical leave for pregnancy-related conditions must be granted to an employee.”

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled differently yesterday. In a 5-1 decision, the Court ruled that a uniformly applied minimum length of service requirement for leave does not violate Ohio’s pregnancy discrimination statute. The result is that employers can legally enforce a minimum length of service requirement (in this case, one year) before allowing a medical leave, even for pregnant employees, as long as the policy is applied equally to all similar medical conditions.

Justice Paul Pfeiffer, who frequently sides with employees in decisions, was the lone dissenter. [McFee v. Nursing Care Mgmt., 2009-Ohio-2744 (2010)].