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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



PRESS RELEASE
9-30-10

EEOC Sues El Palacio For Pregnancy Discrimination

Bullhead City Mexican Restaurant Refused to Hire Pregnant Applicant

PHOENIX -- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced that it is suing El Palacio Mexican Restaurants, Inc. at its Bullhead City location for failing to hire an applicant when it learned she was pregnant. El Palacio has five different restaurants in the state.

The EEOC’s lawsuit, EEOC v. El Palacio Mexican Restaurants, Inc., 3:10-cv-08187-PHX-PGR, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, alleges that El Palacio interviewed Stephanie Mason, who had previous restaurant experience, and after the interview offered her the job. The hiring manager gave her an employee handbook to read and sign, a menu to copy and study, instructed her to obtain a food handler’s card, uniform pants and shoes, and make copies of her driver’s license and social security card. The complaint further alleges that the hiring manager then gave Ms. Mason a tour of the restaurant.

According to the allegations, when Ms. Mason returned a day later, after purchasing uniform pants and shoes and applying for her food handler’s card, she filled out her I-9 and tax documents. At that time, the EEOC alleges, Ms. Mason asked what the pregnancy leave policy was. The hiring manager asked if she was pregnant, she answered “yes” and the manager excused himself. According to the complaint, he returned a few minutes later and told Ms. Mason that the position was filled. Contrary to that statement, the complaint alleges that two non-pregnant employees were hired within a few days.

Sex discrimination in the workplace, including pregnancy, violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Commission seeks monetary damages, including compensatory and punitive damages for Mason. In addition, the EEOC asks for injunctive relief and that El Palacio institute and implement policies to eradicate and prevent future episodes of pregnancy discrimination.

Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill of the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office stated, “Pregnancy discrimination remains a persistent problem in the 21 st century workplace. Employers cannot refuse to hire qualified applicants because they are pregnant -- women should never be forced to choose between motherhood and their livelihood, especially in these difficult economic times.”

“The EEOC will continue to vigorously enforce the law and emphasize a woman’s right to be hired, including when she is pregnant,” said EEOC Acting District Director Rayford Irvin.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.