U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Waitress Asked to Keep Working But Management Said No, Federal Agency Charged
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – A Byram, Miss., bar and restaurant violated federal law by subjecting a pregnant waitress to employment discrimination, according to a lawsuit filed September 29, 2010 by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Reed Pierce’s, a billiards- and sports-themed bar and restaurant, fired Melody McKinley when she was four months pregnant after she had asked to change her shift to go to a doctor’s appointment and experienced pregnancy-related complications. Although her doctor never put any restrictions on her ability to work, the complaint alleges that Reed Pierce’s told McKinley she was a good employee but “the baby was taking its toll on her” and she was let go from her job. When McKinley asked to keep working as a hostess or call-in employee, the restaurant refused, the EEOC said. The EEOC asserts that the company’s actions were intentional and demonstrated a reckless indifference to its employee’s federally protected rights.
Pregnancy discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Mississippi (Civil Action No. 3:10-cv-00541-WHB -LRA) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement. The suit seeks monetary relief for the victim, a court order requiring the company to implement new policies and practices designed to prevent pregnancy discrimination, provide employee training on anti-discrimination laws, posting of notices at the work site and other injunctive relief.
“The law protects employees’ rights to continue working during their pregnancy,” said Delner Franklin-Thomas, district director for the EEOC’s Birmingham District Office.
C. Emanuel Smith, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Birmingham District Office, said, “It is important for employers to recognize that women have the right to remain gainfully employed throughout their pregnancy. This lawsuit is a step in that direction.”
In Fiscal Year 2009, the EEOC received 6,196 charges alleging pregnancy discrimination.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.