“There is still a strong bias against mothers in the workplace, and we encourage women who feel discriminated against due to pregnancy to come forward and let the EEOC help defend your rights,” says the director of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s San Diego office.
Two employees of Tarr, Inc., a now-defunct dietary supplement company, filed complaints of pregnancy discrimination. The EEOC announced a lawsuit in August of last year. Now, the agency has achieved a settlement that will bind the company’s owners, officers and directors if they start new enterprises. Tarr, Inc., merged with Zenith, LLC in 2016.
Fired after notifying company of pregnancy
According to the EEOC, one employee notified the company of her pregnancy and was fired 10 days later. Another pregnant employee was refused a request to return to work after her maternity leave.
Taking adverse job actions against workers based on pregnancy is illegal under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This also violates California state law, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).
Some courts are disregarding the laws surrounding pregnancy discrimination and dismissing these actions due to failure to abide by the laws that prohibit discrimination due to pregnancy, which is gender discrimination. While there is protection under federal and California state law for pregnancy discrimination, California law tends to offer greater protection and recovery for damages.
After attempting a pre-litigation conciliation and settlement process, the EEOC filed suit against Tarr/Zenith seeking both compensatory and punitive damages, along with injunctive relief.
Tarr/Zenith has now agreed to settle the lawsuit. It will pay $50,000 to the complaining employees and agreed to a consent decree. Because the company is no longer in business, the consent decree will apply to its owners, officers and directors and to any businesses they create during the term of the decree.
The consent decree requires them to take a number of actions, such as:
- Train all employees on anti-discrimination laws
- Revise its anti-discrimination and retaliation policies and procedures
- Centrally track requests for pregnancy accommodation, along with any complaints of discrimination or retaliation
- Hire a third-party equal employment opportunity monitor
- Regularly report to the EEOC on progress
- Post a notice about the settlement and consent decree
“Too often, employers wrongly perceive pregnancy and motherhood as incompatible with work, which places women at a great disadvantage,” said a regional attorney for the EEOC. “Employers should be cognizant of their obligations under Title VII and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act to maintain a workplace free of discrimination.”
Have you faced discrimination?
No one should be forced to choose between having a baby and keeping their job. If you have been terminated, reassigned, demoted or targeted for any adverse job action because of your pregnancy, contact an experienced employment law attorney. Your lawyer can assess the situation and work to resolve it in line with your goals.