Assistant Manager Dismissed Days After Giving Birth, Federal Agency Charges
SAN FRANCISCO — Apparel retailer Genesco, Inc. violated federal law when it fired a female employee instead of allowing her to return to work after having a baby, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
Leah Marshall began her employment in 2005 as a sales associate for the Genesco shoe store Journeys, in a shopping mall in Newark, Calif., and had been promoted to an assistant manager before taking her maternity leave in October 2007. According to the EEOC’s investigation, she was assured she could return to work after her child was born. However, in November 2007, just a few days after her child’s birth, she received a call informing her there was no longer a position for her. Her termination was effective December 2007.
“When I talked to my manager, I could not believe what I was hearing,” said Marshall. “I now had a child to support and no job. I had been dedicated and reliable employee, and it was devastating to be tossed aside just because I was a new mom.”
Pregnancy discrimination violates Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978. After first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through conciliation efforts, the EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Genesco, Inc., Civil Action No. CV 12 2220 DMR) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The agency seeks lost wages, damages for emotional distress, and punitive damages on behalf of Marshall, as well as injunctive relief such as training for company managers and employees, and compliance monitoring by the EEOC.
“All employers need to understand that sex discrimination includes discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth and pregnancy-related conditions,” said EEOC Regional Attorney William Tamayo. “The EEOC has seen pregnancy- and childbirth-related claims increase along with the economic crisis, and so we will vigorously defend workers’ rights in this area.”
EEOC San Francisco District Director Michael Baldonado said, “Ms. Marshall was willing to return to work, wanted to work to support her family, and had performed well in her job. Working women should not be forced to choose between motherhood and their livelihood.” He noted that in February the EEOC held a public meeting in Washington concerning discrimination against pregnant women and workers with caregiving responsibilities. Material from this Commission meeting can be found at www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/meetings/2-15-12/index.cfm.
According to its website, Genesco, Inc. is a Nashville-based specialty retailer with more than 2,380 retail stores throughout the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom. Its retail brands and stores include Journeys, Journeys Kidz, Shi by Journeys, Schuh, Lids, Lids Locker Room, Johnston & Murphy, Underground Station and Dockers Footwear.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.