New York Cosmetics Company Sued for Pregnancy Discrimination by Former Project Manager

A former project manager at a French cosmetics company located in Westchester County, New York, filed suit in state court for sex and pregnancy discrimination. The defendant removed the case to federal court in Lanser v. Sisley Cosmetics USA, Inc., Case No. 7:12-cv-07867 (S.D. NY, Oct. 22, 2012) based on subject matter jurisdiction. The plaintiff alleges that, after her return from maternity leave, her supervisor subjected her to inappropriate scrutiny regarding her post-natal care and future family plans, and punitively modified her workload and job duties. After she complained to human resources, she alleges that the company terminated her in retaliation.

Jennifer Lanser began working for Sisley Cosmetics as a project manager in September 2007. She claims that her employment record was excellent from her hire date until at least September 2009. She worked directly under the company’s marketing and operations manager, Dean Robert. Lanser informed the company of her pregnancy in January 2009, and she took the company’s 12-week maternity leave from June 2 to September 2, 2009. After her return to work that September, Lanser alleges that the discriminatory conduct began.

According to Lanser’s complaint, Robert began inquiring about her pregnancy plans, including questions about whether she was taking prenatal vitamins. Inquiries regarding promotions received either terse responses or no response at all, while her workload increased substantially. She alleges that Robert berated her in front of co-workers without cause. After reporting her concerns to the human resources department, Lanser claims that she was told to “just deal with” it. Complaint at 3. Robert allegedly made indirect threats to eliminate her position by discussing possible plans to shut down the program she handled, making her position unnecessary within the company. In a meeting with Robert and a human resources representative, Lanser was terminated on May 12, 2010.

After obtaining a “Notice of Right to Sue” from the New York State Division of Human Rights, Lanser filed suit against Sisley on September 11, 2012 in New York Supreme Court, Westchester County. She asserted causes of action for sex discrimination and retaliation under the New York State Human Rights Law, as well as causes of action for pregnancy discrimination and hostile work environment under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. Lanser alleged that Sisley terminated her in retaliation for reporting the alleged sex and pregnancy discrimination to human resources, and that Robert’s questions regarding her pregnancy and unreasonable increase in workload constituted a hostile work environment. Sisley removed the case to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on October 22, 2012, claiming federal subject matter jurisdiction over the Title VII claims.

Federal and New York state law, as well as the laws of New York City, prohibit discrimination in employment based on gender. Discrimination based on pregnancy is considered a form of gender or sex discrimination. The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 amended Title VII to expressly include pregnancy as a prohibited form of discrimination.

At Phillips & Associates, we work to safeguard the rights of employees and job seekers in the New York City area who have experienced pregnancy discrimination and other forms of employment discrimination in violation of federal, state, and local laws. Contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

Web Resources:

Notice of Removal (PDF File) (includes Verified Complaint), Case No. 7:12-cv-07867, Lanser v. Sisley Cosmetics USA, Inc., U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, October 22, 2012
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