The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently entered into a settlement agreement with a pet food processor in an employment discrimination lawsuit. The agency had sued the company for alleged pregnancy discrimination on behalf of an employee, who claimed she was fired the same day she notified the company about her pregnancy. EEOC v. Triple – T Foods – Arkansas, No. 5:13-cv-05198, complaint (D. Ark., Sep. 16, 2013). The lawsuit claimed violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Under the settlement agreement, the company will pay $30,000 to the former employee, enact new policies regarding pregnancy discrimination, and provide training and notifications of rights to managers and employees.
The defendant hired the complainant as a lab technician at its facility in Springdale, Arkansas in August 2012. The primary activity at that facility is “process[ing] meat by-products used in pet food.” Triple – T, complaint at 2. The complainant’s job duties included various quality control functions, including inspecting the meat and the work area, checking temperature controls in the storage areas, and keeping safety equipment in good condition. The job required working “around and/or with raw meat.” Id. at 3.
The complainant informed the defendant that she was pregnant on or about September 11, 2012. About one hour later, according to the EEOC’s complaint, the defendant told the complainant that “it was necessary to lay her off for the safety of both her and her baby.” Id. The defendant reportedly claimed that the complainant’s doctor had ordered her not to work around raw meat because of a “weakened immune system.” Id. The complainant denied that her doctor imposed any restrictions related to working in the presence of raw meat.
Title VII prohibits discrimination in employment based on gender and other factors. Pregnancy discrimination is expressly included in the statute’s definition of discrimination “because of sex” or “on the basis of sex.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(k). The complainant filed a complaint with the EEOC alleging unlawful pregnancy discrimination. The EEOC filed suit against the defendant in September 2013, seeking compensation for the complainant for back pay and other damages, as well as injunctive relief and other remedies.
The parties entered into a consent decree in July 2014, and the court dismissed the case. While the court made no findings regarding the merits of the case, including whether the defendant violated federal anti-discrimination laws, the consent decree provides much of the relief sought by the EEOC. The defendant agreed to a permanent injunction against discrimination based on sex, pregnancy, and pregnancy-related conditions. It also agreed to provide “pregnancy discrimination awareness training” to all managers and supervisors at the Springdale facility within 120 days of the date the court entered the decree. It must provide a report to the EEOC within 45 days of the training, and it must post a notice regarding employees’ rights under federal employment law in a visible location. Finally, the company agreed to pay $15,000 in back pay and $15,000 in compensatory damages to the complainant.
The pregnancy discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates represent the rights of employees, former employees, and job seekers in the New York City area in claims for unlawful employment practices. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with a member of our team, please contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431.
More Blog Posts:
EEOC Updates Pregnancy Discrimination Guidelines for First Time in Over Thirty Years, New York Employment Attorney Blog, July 17, 2014
New York Assembly Bill Would Improve State Law Protections Against Pregnancy Discrimination, New York Employment Attorney Blog, June 26, 2014
Fast-Food Franchisee Settles Pregnancy Discrimination Claim with EEOC, New York Employment Attorney Blog, June 19, 2014
Photo credit: By Deror Avi (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons.