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Pregnant Employee Wrongfully Fired Because She Was A “Liability” EEOC Lawsuit Charges

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In a press release issued on January 25, 2021, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a press release announcing that it has filed a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit against Awon Phie, d/b/a Holiday Inn Express & Suites (Awon). On January 25, 2021, the EEOC filed the pregnancy discrimination lawsuit, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Awon Phie, d/b/a Holiday Inn Express & Suites, Case No. 2:21-cv-00012, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. Before moving forward with litigation in federal court, the EEOC initially tried to correct the alleged discriminatory employment practices through its statutorily required conciliation process. Unable to obtain from Awon a conciliation agreement deemed acceptable to the EEOC, the EEOC exercised its right under federal law to correct the alleged discriminatory employment practices through litigation in federal court. In this article, our Citrus County, Florida pregnancy discrimination attorneys explain the EEOC’s allegations of unlawful pregnancy discrimination against Awon.

Rights Of Pregnant Employees

The EEOC commenced the lawsuit in federal court pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA), on behalf of a former employee of Awon, Phychett Pegues (Pegues). The PDA makes discrimination against women on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions an unlawful employment practice. The protection against pregnancy discrimination under the PDA extends to all employees and applicants for employment. Under the PDA, as the U.S. Supreme Court determined in UAW v. Johnson Controls, 499 U.S. 187 (1991), the “decision to work while [ ] being pregnant . . . is reserved for each individual women 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, an employer’s decision to require a pregnant employee to stop working regardless of her ability to continue working is a form of illegal pregnancy discrimination. The Supreme Court in Johnson Controls further determined that employers cannot justify terminating a pregnant employee based on risks to the pregnant employee, dangers to the unborn child, or concerns about tort liability.

The EEOC alleges that Awon discriminated against Pegues in violation of the PDA by terminating her because she was pregnant.

Worker Alleges Fired Because She Was Pregnant

Awon owns and operates a Holiday Inn Express & Suites (Holiday Inn) in Corpus Christi, Texas. On May 28, 2019, Pegues began her employment with Awon, working in housekeeping at the Holiday Inn in Corpus Christi. On June 18, 2019, Awon’s Operations Manager told Pegues that he had noticed Pegues’ stomach, referring to Pegues’ being pregnant. The Operations Manager told Pegues that she was a “liability” due to her pregnancy and told her that she could no longer be employed by Awon. The Operations Manager further stated, according to the EEOC, that the company could not allow a pregnant employee to work for them. That same day, Awon terminated Pegues’ employment.

Pregnant Employees Have Right To Work

The EEOC, which is an administrative agency of the federal government, is responsible for interpreting and enforcing the federal anti-discrimination laws, including the PDA. As part of its statutory mission to protect employee rights under the federal anti-discrimination laws, the EEOC files lawsuits in federal court on behalf of employees subjected to unlawful discriminatory employment practices, including pregnancy discrimination. In a press release issued by the EEOC on January 25, 2021 regarding the case, a trail attorney for the EEOC’s San Antonio Field Office, Esha Rajendran, explained that “it is important that employers understand that they cannot fire an employee simply because she is pregnant.” “A pregnant employee who is ready, willing, and able to work,” Ms. Rajendran added, “has the right to continue to earn a living.” In commenting on the case, a supervisory trial attorney for the EEOC’s San Antonio Field Office, Eduardo Juarez, stated that “firing an employee because she is pregnant is illegal and can have profound emotional and financial effects, as occurred here, including the anxiety of finding new employment while pregnant.”

Inverness, FL Pregnancy Discrimination Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, our Citrus County, Florida pregnancy discrimination attorneys have fought for the rights of pregnant employees for more than two decades. If you have been denied the right to continue working while pregnant or have questions about your protection against pregnancy discrimination under the federal anti-discrimination laws, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Inverness, Florida pregnancy discrimination lawyers. Our employment and labor law attorneys take pregnancy 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.

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