An employer has agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of a former employee who alleged discrimination on the basis of pregnancy. EEOC v. Level Four Orthotics & Prosthetics, Inc., No. 1:15-cv-00043, complaint (M.D.N.C., Jan. 14, 2015). The complainant claimed that the company fired her after she requested maternity leave, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978. 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e(k), 2000e-2(a)(1). In addition to payment of monetary damages, the defendant agreed to various forms of injunctive relief, including monitoring by the EEOC.
The defendant owns and operates a medical supply company. According to the EEOC’s complaint, the complainant interviewed for a job in the defendant’s billing department in early May 2013. The defendant did not inquire about pregnancy during the interview, and she did not disclose that she was pregnant at that time. The complainant was offered a job the following day, and she began working for the defendant several days after that.
About one month into her employment with the defendant, the complainant notified the human resources department that she would need maternity leave beginning in August 2013. She claimed that she offered to work from home or work half-days at the office during her leave period. Her supervisor told her that the company would develop a plan to cover her work during her maternity leave. Several weeks later, however, the defendant informed her that the company president may try to fire her. She was terminated at the end of June on the grounds that she had “deceiv[ed] Defendant about her pregnancy and fail[ed] to disclose her need for maternity leave at the time of the job interview.” Level Four, complaint at 4. The defendant filled her position “with a similarly-qualifed person who was not pregnant when hired.” Id.
The complainant filed a complaint with the EEOC, which filed suit on her behalf against the defendant in January 2015. The complaint alleged that the defendant violated the complainant’s right to equal employment opportunities because of her pregnancy, which is considered a form of sex discrimination under federal law. It further alleged that these practices were “intentional” and “done with malice or with reckless indifference to the [complainant’s] federally protected rights.” Id. at 5. Since a refusal to hire a person on the basis of pregnancy could constitute a violation of Title VII just as much as terminating a person because of pregnancy, asking about pregnancy during a job interview is generally considered unlawful.
The parties settled the case in July 2015. The defendant agreed to pay $48,000 to the complainant in damages. Of that amount, $19,000 represented compensatory damages, and $29,000 represented back pay. The defendant also agreed to injunctions against sex discrimination and retaliation for complaining of alleged sex discrimination. It must develop a written anti-discrimination policy, distribute copies to all employees, and provide annual anti-discrimination training. For a period of five years, the defendant must make semi-annual reports to the EEOC regarding pregnant employees and any adverse employment actions against them.
The pregnancy discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates advocate for the rights of job applicants and employees in the greater New York City area. Contact us online or at (212) 248-7431 today to schedule a free and confidential consultation with a skilled and experienced employee rights advocate.
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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