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My wife, who has been in a contract role for almost a year with several extension, has been told today that her contract may not be extended after end of this month - due to contract extension issues.

Her manager told this to her in the same meeting where she let her manager know that she is nearly 3 months pregnant.

After the meeting she received handover related emails straight away.

She is very upset and thinking about turning to HR. Is it worth it? Can she make anything out of this?

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    Legal questions always require the country. Commented Jun 13, 2016 at 19:21
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    If your wife is in the US, there is not much you can do. The employer will not come out and say "we are terminating your contract because you are pregnant". They will find some other reason or no reason at all. And since she is an independent contractor, HR doesn't even get involved.
    – MelBurslan
    Commented Jun 13, 2016 at 19:40
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    @MelBurslan They're not even terminating the contract; they're not extending it, which is even easier to justify. Commented Jun 13, 2016 at 19:41
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    A company is not bound to extend anyone's contract. Unless someone was dumb enough to say, "we're not renewing your contract because you're pregnant", you have no recourse. Commented Jun 13, 2016 at 20:01
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    The fact that he said he wasn't renewing at the same meeting where she told him she was pregnant would be an argument against that being the reason. Few would make a decision that quickly. I suppose it's possible that the manager either had problems with pregnant employees in the past, or has long imagined such employees would be a problem, and so he heard the word "pregnant" and instantly thought, "we've got to get rid of this woman". But that seems unlikely.
    – Jay
    Commented Jun 13, 2016 at 22:11

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If your wife is truly a contract worker there is nothing that HR can do. She doesn't work for that company. She is a contract worker. If it really was because of her pregnancy, but it was at the end of her contract anyways, then there is still nothing you can do. A contract worker is not afforded the same worker protections as if you were an employee of the job site you were working at. That is one of the many things that are both good and bad about working a contract job.

The way it sounds, I do not believe the contract ending and her saying she is pregnant are related. Correlation does not imply causation. I know that if I wanted to let go one of my contact workers I would discuss it with my team before hand. I wouldn't just decide on the spot that the contract is up.

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One of the major reasons companies use contract workers is because it is easy to get rid of them when you no longer need them. You just don't renew the contract. Normally contract workers receive a higher hourly rate of pay or some other compensation in exchange for this lack of stability.

I can't speak for other countries, but in the U.S., there's no law requiring an employer to give any reason at all for not renewing a contract. "Don't need them anymore" or a vague "wasn't happy with their work" is plenty of reason.

If someone actually said, "we're not renewing you because you're pregnant", they might be liable for a sex discrimination lawsuit. But even if that was the real reason, if they never said that -- or worse for them, put it in writing -- I don't see how you'd have much of a case. You can win discrimination suits based on statistical arguments and a pattern of behavior. Like if they've had 10 other employees in the past 5 years who became pregnant and all were immediately terminated the instant the company found out, that might be evidence for a lawsuit. You'd have to check with a lawyer on that. But if you have nothing more than what you said in your post, I doubt you have any grounds. I am not a lawyer. If you really want to pursue this, you should check with a lawyer.

Realistically, I think she is better off to just look for another job. Whether the reason was her pregnancy, that the company was unhappy with her work (for valid or invalid reasons), or just that they didn't need her any more, there's little to be gained by fighting it. My advice would be to just move on.

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  • Can someone sue you for not renewing a contract because of "sex discrimination?" If someone is truly a contract worker, then I do not know what legal protections exist in the US that would protect you. The contract itself governs the relationship between the two parties. Commented Jun 13, 2016 at 23:22
  • @agenovese I'm not sure. I did some checking on the law and found it applies to "employment agencies", which would probably include companies that hire out contract workers, but whether it applies to the relationship between the client company and the agency, I couldn't find. Having a contract per se doesn't make you immune to discrimination suits. If for a regular employee, you wrote into the contract "any employee who becomes pregnant will be immediately terminated", that wouldn't make it legal to do so. It would just be evidence against you in court.
    – Jay
    Commented Jun 14, 2016 at 3:16
  • There is a big difference between a true contract worker and someone placed at a worksite location thru a staffing agency where people call you a contract worker. I have been called a contract worker many times, but often I was just a temporary employee of a staffing company placed somewhere - they used the term "contract" (or "contract W2") because skilled labor doesn't like being called temps. Commented Jun 14, 2016 at 14:42
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On thing about a contract is that it has flexibility on both sides.

Neither party are required to extend the contract. Nearing the end of a contract the company may ask to extend it. It is up to the other party to accept.

This is the reason that contractors are paid a better hourly rate - they forfeit benefits (holiday pay, sickness, ...).

So I am afraid that your partner has no recourse.

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    ... and the benefit of long(er) term job stability.
    – keshlam
    Commented Jun 14, 2016 at 4:57

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