Utah Employment Letter - September 2012: Evidence: 10th Circuit upholds jury’s award in pregnancy discrimination case

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Robert Frost, the great American poet, once wrote that “a jury consists of twelve persons chosen to decide who has the better lawyer.” While the truth of that statement can be debated, it’s no lie that a jury can be a fickle bunch, and employers typically want to avoid facing a jury in an employment discrimination case. As the following case demonstrates, even when a district court judge disagrees with a jury’s verdict and decides to throw it out, appellate courts will defer to the jury’s verdict unless there is no way the jurors could have reasonably reached the result based on the evidence presented.

A pregnant pause -

In November 2006, YRC, Inc., offered an HR specialist position to Mary Brown at its Kansas headquarters. At the time, she was about three months pregnant. Before accepting the position, she e-mailed Stacy Beecher, the HR supervisor who had extended the offer, to inform her that she was pregnant and to inquire about benefits. She stated that she would need to take maternity leave when her baby arrived around the end of May 2007 and she wouldn’t feel comfortable accepting the position if that would inconvenience the department.

Unbeknownst to Brown, YRC’s busy season for HR specialists began in May and ran through August. No one responded to her e-mail prior to the day she was asked to respond to the job offer. Nevertheless, she accepted the offer...

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