U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Kenan Transport Forced Pregnant Employee to Take Unpaid Leave of Absence, Then Fired Her in Retaliation for Complaints Federal Agency Charges
SPARTANBURG, S.C. - Kenan Transport, LLC, a Delaware trucking company that operates six terminals in South Carolina, violated federal law by discriminating against a female employee because she was pregnant and by retaliating against her because she made complaints about pregnancy discrimination, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the EEOC's complaint, Jessica Williams worked at Kenan Transport's Spartanburg, S.C., trucking terminal as a billing clerk. On Feb. 23, 2012, Williams had premature labor, which her doctor was able to stop. The EEOC alleges that when Williams notified the terminal manager her doctor had excused her from work for a few days, the terminal manager told Williams she would not be allowed to return to work until after the birth of her baby. Williams was only seven and one-half months' pregnant at the time. The EEOC further alleges that Williams complained to the company that she was being forced to go out on leave because of her pregnancy and of her intent to file a pregnancy discrimination charge. Ultimately, Williams gave birth to her child on March 15, 2012. According to the EEOC's complaint, Kenan terminated Williams on May 14 because of her pregnancy and/or in retaliation for her complaints about discrimination.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, prohibits employers from discriminating against pregnant employees. Title VII also prohibits employers from retaliating against workers who complain about discrimination. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, Spartanburg Division (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Kenan Transport, LLC) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay and compensatory damages and punitive damages for Williams, as well as injunctive relief.
"Working women who choose to have children cannot be forced to take leave because of their pregnancy," said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District Office. "Employers must remember that adopting paternalistic attitudes toward pregnant employees can result in taking actions that violate federal law. Employers must be careful to treat pregnant women as they do other non-pregnant employees."
According to company information, Kenan Transport, LLC is a subsidiary of The Kenan Advantage Group, Inc, a network of trucking and trucking logistics entities with locations throughout the United States. The company delivers refined petroleum products to gas stations and other end users and employs more than 500 individuals nationwide.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.