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Oprah Winfrey Network under fire for pregnancy discrimination

The Oprah Winfrey Network was launched in Jan. 2011, and while it may not be the powerhouse TV channel that some Houston residents thought it would be, it still carries the Oprah brand. Even for all of Oprah's talents, though, she needs capable, hard-working people at her network to make OWN a success. It appeared the network had a rising star in Carolyn Hommel, who was hired before the network launched and believed she was being groomed for a vice president role.

But that all changed when she became pregnant in July 2011. Hommel went on medical leave related to her pregnancy, and her department hired a temporary worker to "help out" while she was gone.

Soon after she returned, Hommel found that information was being kept from her; that she was not invited to certain meetings; and that the temporary worker was receiving an expanding role in the company.

This is all mentioned in Hommel's sex discrimination lawsuit, which says the temporary worker ultimately received the vice president role and that despite Hommel's positive performance reviews, she was laid off in 2012 (after she gave birth) because OWN was "restructuring." Hommel is suing the OWN network, not Oprah specifically -- but this story certainly shows how quickly a pregnant woman's work environment can unfairly change because she is carrying a child.

It is unacceptable for employers to not make appropriate accommodations for a pregnant woman in their workplace. In addition, they cannot discriminate against a pregnant woman by stunting her career path despite positive job performance.

Source: E! Online, "Oprah Winfrey's OWN Sued for Sex Discrimination," Josh Grossberg, Feb. 4, 2013

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