U.S. Department of Justice Files Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit Against School Board

Kevin Jarrett [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)], via FlickrThe U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a federal lawsuit against a city school board, alleging discrimination against pregnant teachers. United States v. Chicago Bd. of Educ., No. 1:14-cv-10285, am. complaint (N.D. Ill., Feb. 2, 2015). Two former teachers, who claim that their principal targeted them for termination after learning of their pregnancies, filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC referred the matter to the DOJ when it was unable to reach a settlement with the school board. The lawsuit alleges sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2(a), 2000e(k); and a “pattern or practice” of sex discrimination under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-6.

The school board hired the principal at the center of this case in 2006, and she has worked at the same elementary school ever since. Part of her job from 2008 to 2012 involved annual performance reviews of non-tenured teachers, also known as probationary appointed teachers (PATs), as well as biennial performance reviews of tenured teachers. Evaluations included brief summaries of teachers’ “overall strengths and weaknesses,” and overall ratings of “outstanding,” “excellent,” “satisfactory,” or “unsatisfactory.” Chicago Bd. of Educ., am. complaint at 3.

One of the two complainants was a second-grade PAT at the school from 2007 to 2010. The other complainant was a tenured special education teacher at the school from 2007 to 2013. Both complainants received “outstanding” or “excellent” ratings from the principal for the 2008-09 school year. The PAT notified the principal that she was pregnant in November 2009. The following February, the principal rated her as “satisfactory” on her annual performance review, with allegedly only pretextual grounds for the lower rating. The principal notified her in March 2010 that she was recommending her for termination, and the school board formally fired her in May. The special education teacher had a similar experience after informing the principal of her pregnancy in December 2010.

The DOJ alleges that the principal targeted all teachers at the school who became pregnant, or who returned to work after giving birth, for termination, beginning in 2009 and continuing until at least 2012. Five teachers at the school reportedly became pregnant during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years, and the school board had fired all of them by the end of the 2009-10 school year. Non-pregnant teachers who received similarly low performance ratings, or who had less tenure, were allegedly not fired. Two anonymous complaints filed with the school board’s Equal Opportunity Compliance Office accused the principal of pregnancy discrimination. The two complainants filed EEOC charges in June 2010 and September 2012.

The lawsuit asserts two causes of action, beginning with sex discrimination. It claims that the school board, through the principal, discriminated against the complainants and other similarly situated teachers on the basis of their “pregnancies, childbirths, or related medical conditions.” Id. at 8. The complaint also alleges that the school engaged in “regular, purposeful, and less-favorable treatment of teachers because of their sex (pregnancies).” Id. at 9. Title VII authorizes the DOJ to file suit against an employer for a “pattern or practice” of employment discrimination.

At Phillips & Associates, our pregnancy discrimination attorneys advocate for the rights of employees and job seekers in the greater New York City area. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with an experienced and skilled employee rights advocate, contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431.

More Blog Posts:

Many Employers Continue to Express Reluctance to Hire Women Who Might Become Pregnant, Despite Clear Laws on the Subject, New York Employment Attorney Blog, April 21, 2015

Woman Whose Employer Denied Her Request for Light Duty During Pregnancy May Continue Her Discrimination Lawsuit, Supreme Court Rules, New York Employment Attorney Blog, April 15, 2015

Pregnancy Discrimination Complaint Alleges Employer Fired Woman Soon After Learning She Was Pregnant, New York Employment Attorney Blog, March 25, 2015

Photo credit: Kevin Jarrett [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr.

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