Byram, Miss., Bar Fired Server Due to Her Pregnancy, Federal Agency Charged
JACKSON, Miss. - Reed Pierce's Sportsman's Grille, doing business as Reed Pierce's bar in Byram, Miss., will pay $20,000 and furnish other relief to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC had charged that a female server was removed from the weekly schedule and fired because of her pregnancy.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Reed Pierce's terminated Melody McKinley without warning and without prior disciplinary action, telling her when it took her off the weekly schedule, "The baby is taking its toll on you." McKinley, who was four months pregnant with her first child, had not cut back on her shifts and was under no medical or working restrictions when she was fired.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, prohibits employers from discharging employees or subjecting employees to disparate terms and conditions, including reductions in hours, because of an employee's sex, including pregnancy. The EEOC filed suit (No. 3:10-CV-00540) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, Southern Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The case was scheduled for a jury trial after Reed Pierce's lost a second motion to dismiss the matter in December 2012.
The settlement, memorialized in a two-year consent decree entered by the court on Feb. 5, includes $20,000 in monetary relief for McKinley. The decree further requires Reed Pierce's to implement new policies and practices designed to prevent pregnancy discrimination, conduct management training on anti-discrimination laws, and post employee notices at the restaurant. For the decree's two-year period, Reed Pierce's is also required to provide reports to the EEOC on complaints of pregnancy discrimination.
"This case is just one example of the widespread problem of pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, no matter the size of the employer," said C. Emanuel Smith, regional attorney for the EEOC's Birmingham District Office. "The EEOC stands poised to target these violations in court."
Delner Franklin-Thomas, district director for the EEOC's Birmingham District Office, added, "Employers have a duty to know the law and to follow it. Women have the right to work, including during pregnancy. The EEOC will continue to use appropriate means to protect this right."
In fiscal year 2012, the EEOC nationwide received 3,745 charges of discrimination alleging pregnancy discrimination. During the same time frame, the EEOC's Jackson Area Office received 1,218 charges alleging employment discrimination under all bases under Title VII.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. The EEOC's Birmingham District covers Alabama, Mississippi (except 17 northern counties) and the Florida Panhandle. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.