A restaurant has settled a lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for alleged discrimination against a former employee based on pregnancy. EEOC v. Reed Pierce’s Sportsman’s Grille, LLC, No. 3:10-cv-00541, consent decree (S.D. Miss., Feb. 5, 2013). The former employee will receive $20,000 in compensatory damages and back pay, and the restaurant will modify its employment policies and provide anti-discrimination training for its managers. The EEOC brought the lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on gender and pregnancy, and Title I of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which allows causes of action for intentional acts of employment discrimination.
The EEOC filed suit on behalf of a complainant who alleged that Reed Pierce’s, a restaurant in Byram, Mississippi, fired her because she was pregnant. The complainant worked as a waitress at the restaurant, and informed her supervisors of her pregnancy in November 2008. The restaurant allegedly allowed other employees, who were not pregnant, to leave work because of illness or for doctor’s appointments, and it offered light duty to other employees who were suffering from health issues. It denied the complainant’s request to leave work in February 2009, she alleged, after she suffered an allergic reaction to prenatal vitamins. It allegedly denied a similar request from her the following month to leave work for an appointment with her doctor. The restaurant terminated the complainant’s employment on March 7, 2009. According to the EEOC, it advised her at the time that “her pregnancy was interfering with her ability to perform her job.” Reed Pierce’s, am. complaint at 3-4 (Oct. 18, 2010).
The EEOC alleged in its lawsuit that the restaurant discriminated against the complainant by terminating her employment when it offered modified work duties to other employees for health conditions not related to pregnancy. The restaurant, the EEOC claimed, displayed “malice and/or reckless indifference” to the complainant’s rights. Id. at 4. The lawsuit, filed in a Mississippi federal court, asserts causes of action under federal anti-discrimination law. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, prohibits discrimination in employment based on an employee’s sex and expressly includes pregnancy. Title I of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 provides a cause of action for “unlawful intentional discrimination” in employment. 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1981a(a)(1). State law in New York similarly prohibits discrimination in employment based on gender and pregnancy.
The parties entered a consent decree in February 2013 to settle the lawsuit, although the restaurant continues to deny liability. The restaurant agreed to pay the complainant $15,000 in back pay and $5,000 in compensatory damages. It agreed to injunctions prohibiting it from discriminating on the basis of pregnancy, from involvement in any policy or action that it knows will have such a discriminatory effect, and from retaliation against any employee who reports or otherwise objects to any act that violates Title VII. The company must develop new written policies related to gender and pregnancy discrimination, implement them within ninety days, and notify the EEOC. Finally, it must provide anti-discrimination training for all managers at its location in Byram.
The pregnancy discrimination attorneys Phillips & Associates work to protect the rights of employees and job seekers in the New York City area against employment discrimination in violation of federal, state, and local laws. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431.
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Photo credit: By Serge Melki from Indianapolis, USA (Montréal – Cute Waitress Uploaded by russavia) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.