Party Supplier Fired Employee Due to Pregnancy and Pregnancy-Related Condition, Federal Agency Charged
HOUSTON - Party City Corporation has agreed to pay $39,000 in lost wages and damages and to provide other significant relief in order to settle a pregnancy and disability lawsuit filed earlier this year by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today. Party City a party supply retailer based in Rockaway, N.J., and operates in the greater Houston area.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Party City fired Jahneiss Groce because of her pregnancy and pregnancy-related medical condition. The suit alleged that in December 2015, Groce sought medical care due to a pregnancy-related condition and sought a reasonable accommodation. The local store management conveyed the request to Party City's human resources department. After obtaining additional medical information, Party City denied Groce's request and terminated her employment on Feb. 1, 2016. The EEOC determined that Groce was discharged on the basis of pregnancy and disability, less than one year after being hired.
The EEOC charged that Party City's conduct violated both the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. 4:19-cv-00824) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. Party City denied liability. The parties agreed to resolve the dispute by entering into a three-year consent decree.
On July 12, 2019, U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein, Jr. signed and entered the decree. In addition to the monetary award for Groce, the decree provides for significant non-monetary relief, including an injunction prohibiting any future discrimination on the basis of pregnancy or disability. Party City is also bound under the decree to develop training about its policies and the PDA's and ADA's requirements.
"The law requires companies to gather all relevant facts necessary to conduct an individualized assessment of a disabled employee's ability to perform the essential functions of her job," said Regional Attorney Rudy Sustaita of the EEOC Houston District Office. "The EEOC will vindicate the rights of pregnant employees who are discriminated against."
Lloyd Van Oostenrijk, trial attorney for the Houston District Office, added, "This settlement is the best avenue to address the concerns raised by the EEOC and Ms. Groce's complaint."
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.