EEOC Files Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit Against Jacksonville, Florida Company
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently announced that it has filed a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit against The Day & Zimmermann Group, Inc. and Sunrise Beach Corporation, which conduct business as M2 Services Corporation (M2 Services), pursuant to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). The PDA protects employees from discrimination on the basis of pregnancy. On January 1, 2019, the EEOC filed the lawsuit, EEOC v. The Day & Zimmermann Group, Inc. and Sunrise Beach Corporation, Case No. 3:19-cv-127, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida after initially attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its statutorily mandated conciliation process. In this article, our Marion County, Florida employment discrimination lawyers explain the EEOC’s allegations against M2 Services and illuminate the legal basis for the EEOC’s pregnancy discrimination lawsuit.
EEOC’S Allegations Of Pregnancy Discrimination
M2 Services provides aviation and heavy vehicle maintenance, modification, painting, and overhaul services to the military at National Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida. Jasmine Pates (Pates) was employed by M2 Services as an aircraft cleaner. In this position, Pates was responsible for cleaning aircraft parts and was exposed to dirt, dust, fumes, grease, oils, and cleaning agents.
In January 2016, Pates informed her supervisor that she was pregnant. After learning of her pregnancy, M2 Services placed Pates on an involuntary, unpaid leave of absence from work. Pates never requested that M2 Services place her on a leave of absence. In requiring Pates to take a leave of absence without her consent, the EEOC claims that M2 Services “unilaterally decided” that Pates, as a pregnant woman, “should not be exposed to dirt, dust, fumes, grease, or cleaning agents.” M2 Services notified Pates that she would not be allowed to return to work until she obtained a medical authorization from a doctor.
In February 2016, Pates was examined by a doctor selected by M2 Services. The doctor recommended that Pates not return to work unless she obtained a letter from her doctor permitting her to do so. Pates was medically cleared to return to work by her doctor. After providing M2 Services with a letter from her doctor stating that she could return to work, Pates expected that M2 Services would allow her to return to work.
After submitting the letter from her doctor, Pates contacted M2 Services about when she would be allowed to return to work. Pates was advised that human resources personnel were busy, but they would get back to her. Because she never received a “substantive response” from M2 Services about when she would be allowed to return to work, Pates “contacted the company on an approximately weekly basis to inquire when she would be allowed to return to work.” Almost five weeks after she submitted the letter from her doctor, M2 Services left Pates a telephone message stating that if she failed to return the disability paperwork it provided her, then her employment would be terminated. That same day, Pates received a letter from M2 Services terminating her employment for alleged job abandonment.
Forced Leave Of Absence Is Pregnancy Discrimination
The EEOC claims that by refusing to allow Pates to return to work despite her ability to work while pregnant, M2 Services fired Pates on the basis of pregnancy in violation of the PDA. Under the PDA, an employer cannot require an employee to take a leave of absence from work because she is pregnant so long as she is able to perform the essential functions of her job. As determined by the U.S. Supreme Court in UAW v. Johnson Controls, 499 U.S. 187 (1991), the “decision to work while [ ] pregnant . . . is reserved for each individual woman to make for herself” and “pregnant women who are able to work must be permitted to work under the same conditions as other employees.” Thus, the PDA prohibits an employer from refusing to allow a pregnant employee to work, or otherwise requiring a pregnant employee to take a leave of absence from work, when she is physically able to work while pregnant.
EEOC Fights Pregnancy Discrimination
The EEOC is the administrative agency of the United States responsible for interpreting and enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. The EEOC is also authorized by federal law to bring lawsuits on behalf of victims of employment discrimination, including pregnancy discrimination. In a press release regarding the case, the regional attorney for the EEOC’s Miami District Office, Robert E. Weisberg, stated that “it is not for employers to decide whether pregnant women may continue working during their pregnancies—that decision must be made by the employee.”
Free Consultation With Ocala Discrimination Lawyers
Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, we have represented employment discrimination victims in hundreds of cases before the EEOC. If you have been a victim of pregnancy discrimination or have questions about your rights as a pregnant employee, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Marion County, Florida employment discrimination attorneys. Our employment and labor law attorneys take employment discrimination cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.