Category: Pregnancy Discrimination

FMLA, Retaliation, and Lawsuits

Ronald Rice was excited to share the news of his wife’s pregnancy with his co-workers and employer in January 2012. Within days of his announcement, however, his work relationship turned sour.

Suddenly, Rice was assigned a multitude of extra duties that were outside his job description. He endured the extra workload for six months until his wife’s pregnancy took a difficult turn. In order to take care of his wife who now had more doctor’s appointments to attend and had severe morning sickness, Rice requested to take five days of vacation time. Two of those days were denied, so Rice put in an FMLA request for those days, three days after his vacation request. The employer swiftly terminated Rice.

Rice then sued the company for interfering with his FMLA rights. The district court decided that there was enough evidence to conclude that the employer had terminated Rice due to his association with his pregnant wife and discriminated against him for trying to take an FMLA leave. The employer’s defense hinged on the testimony of managers who claimed the executor of the termination was not aware of Rice’s request. The court, however, found that there was no plan to terminate Rice previous to his FMLA request, and therefore concluded that the sole reason for termination was borne out of retaliation.

Source: Rice v. Kellermeyer Co. (Ohio 2014)

Jury Awards Autozone Manager $185 Million In Punitive Damages For Pregnancy Discrimination Case

Rosario Juarez was a manager at one of Autozone’s San Diego, California locations. Although she consistently met the goals set for her by the company, her boss took issue with Juarez after learning she had become pregnant. Autozone made Juarez’s job more difficult by doubling her work and setting her up to fail. A representative of the company told Juarez that he, “felt sorry” for her after she became pregnant and forced her to redo work that did not need to be redone. Apparently, Autozone hoped that the excessive work would force Juarez to quit her job, but she didn’t. Instead the company demoted, and eventually fired Juarez due to her “condition.”

The case went before jury in Federal Court, and Autozone lost—big time. Juarez was awarded $900,000 in compensatory damages and a staggering $185,000,000 in punitive damages. Although the punitive damages award is not likely to pass judicial scrutiny, the result has sent a clear message to all California employers: don’t discriminate or retaliate against your pregnant workers.

It will be interesting to see just how much Juarez recovers after the dust settles, but there is a strong possibility her recovery will break the record for highest punitive damages award in California’s judicial history!

The Pitfalls of Using Social Media to Hire—Or Not Hire—Prospective Employees

Carol Miaskoff of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the “EEOC”) recently spoke on a panel at a Federal Trade Commission Workshop regarding the use of social media to screen employment candidates.

Miaskoff warned employers to be cognizant of using social media because the company can uncover a variety of information that alludes to the applicants’ protected statuses (i.e. race, gender, or disability). In some cases, the decision not to hire someone based on their social media account can be interpreted as a violation of labor law, especially if a company decides not to hire someone once discovering their sexual orientation or that the prospective employee is pregnant, as an example.

Employers must not use prospective workers’ social media sporadically, but instead, should utilize it consistently with all applicants. Again, the employer may be at fault for using social media discriminatorily, but some may argue that employers can use social media for good cause.

Source: National Law Review

Image Source:

New York Mets are Pitched a Discrimination Lawsuit

Leigh Castergine’s resume is filled with prominent sports teams including the Boston Bruins and the Orlando Magic. Castergine joined the New York Mets in 2010 and was awarded a raise two years later, then promoted only a year after that. It may not seem unusual for a sports team’s senior vice president of ticket sales to have such a trajectory—Castergine’s path came to a screeching halt in in August 2013. Why? Leigh Castergine is the first woman in the Mets’s 52 years to hold such a prominent position, and she got pregnant

In August 2013, Castergine discovered she was pregnant but was hesitant to inform the team’s CEO and Executive Vice President since the two had exhibited hostilities toward another pregnant female collegue. She waited several months until October 2013; she could no longer hide the pregnancy and informed CEO Jeff Wilpon and Vice President Lou DiPaoli.

From that point forward, Wilpon made the office a very uncomfortable environment. Often, Wilpon would make comments about Castergine’s pregnancy out of wedlock. He commented that he “might be old fashioned” but “thinks [Castergine] should be married before having a baby” according to the complaint. In December of 2013 Wilpon told Castergine that “she should tell her boyfriend that when she gets a ring, she will make more money and a bigger bonus.”

Things got worse for Castergine as 2014 started. At the start of the year, she was diagnosed with a rare-pregnancy related condition. Wilpon continued making comments about Castergine’s marital status commenting at an advertising meeting, “I am as morally opposed to putting an e-cigarette sign in my ballpark as I am to Leigh having his baby without being married.”

Wilpon continued to openly comment on Castergine’s pregnancy and marital status; he often made these comments in front of other male executives. Finally, when Castergine reported the humiliation to Human Resources, Wilpon terminated Castergine, telling her that since the birth of the child she was “no longer as ‘aggressive’ as she used to be.”

The Mets have responded publicly, claiming Castergine’s claims are without merit. The Mets, apparently, don’t discriminate.

Source: Buzzfeed

Image Source: Above the Law

Your Right To Lactate

Mothers who want to breastfeed and still return to work can face difficulties, including simply finding a time and place to express breast milk when they are not with their babies.

In California, a specific law provides for “Lactation Accommodation” –what an employer is required to do so a breastfeeding employee can do what she needs to while at work.

The law requires employers to:

  • Provide a reasonable amount of break time so that an employee can express milk.  As many mothers know, it can take fifteen or twenty minutes to “pump,” and a standard 10-minute rest break might not be enough.
  • Provide a place for the employee to express milk near her work station – and not in a toilet stall.
  • Make arrangements to ensure the room or place is private, such as putting up blinds or window coverings or adding a lock to normally unlocked doors.

If an employer fails to live up to its obligations, it can be cited by the State Labor Commissioner and fined.