Doctor Obtains $500,000 Judgment in Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit Against Hospital

Employees who are pregnant or have recently given birth are protected from discrimination under multiple statutes. New York City pregnancy attorneys may draw on two federal statutes: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978; and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993. A plaintiff recently obtained a $500,000 judgment against her former employer in a lawsuit that asserted claims for pregnancy discrimination under both statutes. Ota v. Trustees of the Univ. of Pa., et al, No. 2:18-cv-01651, complaint (E.D. Pa., Apr. 19, 2018).

Title VII prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of five factors: “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). The PDA amended Title VII’s definition of discrimination “on the basis of sex” to include discrimination based on “pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.” Id. at § 2000e(k). The FMLA, meanwhile, requires covered employers to provide qualifying employees with a certain amount of unpaid leave for medical purposes, either for themselves or for a family member. Employers may not “interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of” a right provided by this statute, nor may they discriminate or retaliate against an employee who complains about an alleged violation. 29 U.S.C. § 2615(a).

The plaintiff in Ota is a “pathologist and clinical microbiologist.” Ota, complaint at 1. She held two positions prior to giving birth to a child in 2015: Director of the Clinical Microbiology Lab at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), and Assistant Professor in the Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Department at the University of Pennsylvania. Id. She states in her complaint that she was hired by both employers at about the same time in 2011, although she was not promoted to the position of laboratory director at CHOP until 2012.

She states that she informed her supervisor at the hospital that she was pregnant in October 2014, and alleges that the supervisor began “pointedly ignor[ing]” her in the workplace several months after this. Id. at 5. She describes conduct by multiple supervisors and administrators that she believed was intended to “discourage[ her] from taking maternity leave.” Id. at 8. Harassing behavior allegedly continued during her maternity leave and after her return to work. Although the plaintiff’s prior annual reviews, she claims, were very good, that year’s review allegedly “fabricated evidence of unprofessional behavior” and “assailed her scholarship.” Id. at 11. After a demotion to assistant director of the laboratory, she was eventually removed from that position. This also led to her removal from the university faculty.

The lawsuit alleged violations of Title VII, the FMLA, and state law. The hospital made an offer of judgment under Rule 68 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which allows defendants to protect themselves by making a reasonable settlement offer prior to trial. If a party rejects a Rule 68 offer, and then recovers an amount less than the amount of the offer, that party is liable for “the costs incurred after the offer was made.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 68(d). The hospital’s offer, which the plaintiff accepted, included a judgment amount of $500,000, with no admission of liability.

Phillips & Associates’ team of experienced and skilled employment attorneys represents New York City employees, former employees, and job applicants in claims for pregnancy discrimination and other unlawful workplace practices. Please contact us at (212) 248-7431 or online today to schedule a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case.

More Blog Posts:

New York Lawsuit Alleges Employer Failed to Provide Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnant Workers, New York Employment Attorney Blog, November 14, 2018

Federal Lawsuit Alleges Disparate Impact Discrimination Based on Pregnancy, New York Employment Attorney Blog, November 7, 2018

Plaintiffs in Successful Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit Seek to Change State Law, New York Employment Attorney Blog, February 21, 2018

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