A woman who used to work as a bartender at an Illinois sports bar claims in a federal lawsuit, filed in May 2012, that the bar’s owner fired her because she was pregnant. Federal law prohibits discrimination in employment based on gender, race, religion, and several other categories. The law views pregnancy discrimination as a form of unlawful gender discrimination.
Plaintiff Heidi Spontak was employed as a bartender by the CharleyHorse, a restaurant in the Chicago suburb of Tinley Park, when she learned she was approximately eleven weeks pregnant on May 27, 2011, according to her complaint. Spontak informed her manager of her pregnancy right away. She claims that her manager and others advised her not to let the restaurant’s owner learn about her pregnancy, because the owner would fire her. The restaurant’s co-owners were Bryan and Maria Sord, according to the complaint.
Spontak claims that while she was working on July 29, 2011, Maria Sord commented to her that she “looked like she was pregnant.” Her manager allegedly told her shortly afterwards that the owners knew about her pregnancy, and that she was being terminated with two weeks’ notice. She filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on November 21. The EEOC notified her of her right to sue for discrimination on March 22, 2012.
On May 9, 2012, Spontak filed a lawsuit in the Northern District of Illinois against the restaurant’s parent companies, alleging gender discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. She alleges that “a similarly situated, male…or non-pregnant female employee” assumed her job after her termination, and that male and non-pregnant female employees received favorable treatment at the restaurant. Spontak claims that she performed her job duties in a satisfactory manner up until she was terminated, and that she has other children and was able to do her job without incident during previous pregnancies. She is demanding lost wages and benefits, attorney’s fees and costs, and $200,000 in punitive damages.
The owners of the restaurant have not yet filed an answer in the case, but they have responded in the media. Local news recently reported that they are closing the Tinley Park location of the restaurant to focus on their other two locations elsewhere in the Chicago suburbs. Bryan Sord reportedly gave a written statement to the media calling Spontak’s claims “outrageously false and untrue.” He calls the idea that he would discriminate against a pregnant employee due to her pregnancy “offensive,” and he claims that Spontak left the restaurant “on her own accord.”
The Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination based on several protected categories, including gender. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 amended the law to specify pregnancy as a form of gender discrimination. A claimant must typically submit a claim of discrimination to a governmental entity like the EEOC or the New York State Division on Human Rights, which will evaluate the claim to determine if it may proceed to litigation. A plaintiff must prove that the discriminatory act or acts, which may include termination, was principally motivated by discrimination
The New York pregnancy discrimination lawyers at Phillips & Associates help safeguard the rights protected by anti-discrimination laws for both employees and job seekers. Contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.
Complaint (PDF), Spontak v. The Charley Horse Restaurant and Bar, Inc., et al, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, May 9, 2012
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Proposed Legislation Would Increase Protections Against Pregnancy Discrimination, New York Employment Attorney Blog, May 22, 2012
EEOC Reviews Pregnancy Discrimination and Discrimination Against Caregiving Workers, New York Employment Attorney Blog, April 27, 2012
Class Action Suit Seeks $100 Million for Pregnancy Discrimination, Other Violations, New York Employment Attorney Blog, April 19, 2012