Medical Practice Fired Receptionist Who Complained About Pregnancy Discrimination, Federal Agency Charged
BALTIMORE - Annapolis Internal Medicine, a large Annapolis-based internal medicine practice, will pay $22,500 and furnish significant remedial relief to settle a federal pregnancy discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
The EEOC had charged that when Elizabeth Rodriguez, a newly hired medical receptionist, reported to a supervisor to receive an influenza vaccination, Rodriguez disclosed her pregnancy and asked that the information be kept confidential. However, management failed to honor her request and also began subjecting her to unequal treatment. When Rodriguez complained, Annapolis Internal Medicine gave Rodriguez a counseling report about "the value of being honest" instead of addressing her concerns about discrimination. The medical practice continued to treat Rodriguez more harshly because of her pregnancy and she continued to report this disproportionate treatment, the EEOC said. Rodriguez's final complaint came three days before Annapolis Internal Medicine fired her, the agency charged.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Annapolis Internal Medicine terminated Rodriguez because of her pregnancy and in retaliation for her complaints about the pregnancy discrimination, the EEOC charged in its lawsuit (EEOC v. Annapolis Internal Medicine, Civil Action No. 1:13-cv-02831-ELH) filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Baltimore Division, after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to the $22,500 in monetary relief to Rodriguez, which represents her full wage loss as well as compensatory damages, the three-year consent decree resolving the lawsuit enjoins Annapolis Internal Medicine from taking adverse employment actions on the basis of pregnancy or in retaliation for complaining about discrimination in the future. The medical practice will implement and disseminate to all employees a policy prohibiting pregnancy discrimination and retaliation. Annapolis Internal Medicine will provide anti-discrimination training to all managers, supervisors and employees and post a notice regarding the settlement. The medical practice will also report to the EEOC on its compliance with the consent decree.
"While it should be obvious to all employers that pregnant women have the right to support themselves and their families, unfortunately some employers still react badly when they learn of an employee's pregnancy," said EEOC Philadelphia Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence. "The EEOC is committed to ensuring that women are not discriminated against based on pregnancy."
EEOC District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. added, "An employer should not ask an applicant during the interview whether she is pregnant, and an applicant absolutely has no obligation to disclose her pregnancy during the interview or early in her employment -- it is simply not relevant to the hiring decision or her job. This lawsuit demonstrates once again that the EEOC will take vigorous action to remedy pregnancy discrimination and retaliation, including litigation when warranted."
The Philadelphia District Office of the EEOC oversees Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the Commission is available at its website, www.eeoc.gov.