Can you reject an applicant because she’s pregnant?

Maintenance Control Clerk Mary Rheem resigned because she was going to have a baby. This made her supervisor, Greg Burnside, supersensitive to the departmental hazard of pregnancy. Control clerk was a critical job that required a lot of training.
By Raymond Dreyfack August 1, 1998

Maintenance Control Clerk Mary Rheem resigned because she was going to have a baby. This made her supervisor, Greg Burnside, supersensitive to the departmental hazard of pregnancy. Control clerk was a critical job that required a lot of training. Burnside wanted to be sure Mary’s replacement would remain in the job.

Burnside finally found an applicant he considered well qualified. Ann Lobel was 25, recently married, and with just the experience needed. But Burnside was taking no chances. He explained how important the job was, and how much break-in time would be needed.

“Excuse my asking,” he added, “but I see you’re married. Do you happen to be pregnant?”

Lobel’s face flushed. “That’s a highly personal question. I don’t think it’s in order.”

Burnside took her answer to mean yes, she was pregnant.

“Thank you, we’ll be in touch.”

The applicant was sharp enough to get the meaning. “I’m ideally qualified for this job, Mr. Burnside. If I don’t get it I’ll want to know why.”

Question : Can Lobel be denied the job on the basis of her pregnancy?

Shaw’s decision: “Hire Lobel,” Plant Engineer Jerry Shaw instructed Burnside. “Asking an applicant if she’s pregnant is out of line and contrary to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines. Denying employment because of pregnancy is a violation of the Civil Rights Act.”