Disney Beats Pregnancy Discrimination Claim as Court Finds Spouses Aren't Protected

The Walt Disney Studios
Amy Sussman/Getty Images

The Walt Disney Studios

Disney has defeated a pregnancy discrimination complaint from a man who claimed he was shamed and harassed because of his wife's pregnancy.

Steven Van Soeren in November sued Disney Streaming Service (formerly BAMtech). He alleged HR ignored his complaints about harassment involving his procreation and he was terminated shortly after taking a two-week paternity leave. Van Soeren, who worked for the company from Aug. 2016 through May 2019, also said his colleagues referenced topics that he had either discussed only at home or viewed on his personal computer at home, leading him to believe his computer had been hacked.

Disney in June filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, arguing that pregnancy discrimination laws "only provide protection to a pregnant employee."

U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald agreed, finding that Van Soeren can't get past the first test of a Title VII claim because he isn't a member of a protected class. "Being  new parent" isn't enough, she found, and Title VII "does not protect an employee whose spouse is pregnant."

Buchwald also found that Van Soeren's FMLA claim fails because he was able to take his paternity leave "without incident" and declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims.

Read the decision below.