A woman alleged that the retail clothing store where she worked for two days unlawfully discriminated against her by terminating her employment after she informed the store manager about her pregnancy. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed suit against the company on her behalf for violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. EEOC v. Kevin & J Co., Inc., et al, No. 1:12-cv-00321, complaint (S.D. Tenn., Sep. 26, 2012). In July 2014, the EEOC announced that it had settled the lawsuit with the employer, which had agreed to pay monetary damages of $15,000 to the complainant.
The lawsuit named two defendants, Kevin & J Company, Inc. and SB & Company TN, Inc., and alleged that they operate as a single employer, with common ownership and control, shared offices, and “centralized control of labor relations.” Id. at 2. Kevin & J Company operates over 20 retail clothing stores in five states, and, at the time of the events described in the lawsuit, employed 89 people. The complainant began working at the store in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which was in the process of opening, on June 16, 2010. Her job, “retail associate,” primarily involved “hanging clothes and arranging mannequins for display.” Id. at 4. She worked about 10 hours on her first day.
The store manager told the complainant that she would be working a 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. shift on June 17. After reporting to work on June 17, she asked the manager if she could take a lunch break from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. for a doctor’s appointment, which was necessary because she was pregnant. The manager reportedly discussed the complainant’s doctor’s appointment with one of the company’s two owners. He then told the complainant that the company was terminating her employment. She asked if she had done anything wrong, and the manager reportedly said that “she could no longer work for Defendant Employer because she was pregnant.” Id.
The EEOC filed suit against the defendants for pregnancy discrimination in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). Under federal employment law, discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, and pregnancy-related medical conditions is considered a form of unlawful sex or gender discrimination. Employment statutes in New York and New York City have similar provisions. In addition to injunctive relief, the lawsuit sought monetary damages for the complainant, including back pay, pecuniary losses, and non-pecuniary losses like emotional distress.
The parties entered a consent decree in July 2014. While the decree acknowledges that the case did not involve the defendants’ employment policies or the training of its managers and supervisors, it includes provisions for both, which is standard in consent decrees with the EEOC. The defendants agreed to maintain written anti-discrimination policies and to provide training on pregnancy discrimination and other unlawful forms of employment discrimination. The decree is binding for a period of three years, during which time the EEOC may monitor the defendants for compliance. Most importantly, the defendants agreed to pay $5,000 in back pay and $10,000 in non-pecuniary 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 who have been subjected to discrimination based on pregnancy and other unlawful employment practices. To schedule a free and confidential consultation to see how we can help you, please contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431.
More Blog Posts:
EEOC Settles Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit Against Pet Food Company for $30,000, New York Employment Attorney Blog, August 28, 2014
State Laws, Proposed Federal Law Require Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnant Employees, New York Employment Attorney Blog, August 14, 2014
EEOC Updates Pregnancy Discrimination Guidelines for First Time in Over Thirty Years, New York Employment Attorney Blog, July 17, 2014
Photo credit: Paul Keller [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr.