Woman Fired After Supervisor Learned She Was Pregnant, Federal Agency Says
MILWAUKEE– A major Midwestern supermarket chain, Woodman’s Food Markets, Inc. of Janesville, Wis., violated federal law by firing an employee after learning that she was pregnant , the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
The agency’s administrative investigation which preceded the lawsuit revealed that Woodman’s fired Arianna Goodwin in January 2008 after an assistant store manager at one of its Madison, Wis., stores asked Goodwin if she was pregnant, and then told her he would have to fire her or she could quit and reapply after giving birth.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement out of court through its conciliation process. The agency seeks compensatory and punitive damages for Goodwin, in addition to an order requiring other relief and barring future discrimination. The suit, captioned EEOC v. Woodman’s Food Markets, Inc., Civil Action No. 3:10-C-540, was filed in federal district court in Madison and assigned to U.S. District Judge William M. Conley.
“Federal law protects a woman’s right to keep her job when she becomes pregnant,” said EEOC Chicago District Director John Rowe, who supervised the agency’s investigation. “Especially in these difficult economic times, a woman shouldn’t have to choose between job and family.”
John C. Hendrickson, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Chicago District Office, which is responsible for EEOC litigation in Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota, said, “The days of assuming that pregnancy equals inability to work are long since over, yet some employers still discriminate against women who become pregnant. Through this case, and others like it, we hope to send the message that federal law protects women who are creating families and trying to earn a living.”
Woodman’s operates 12 warehouse supermarkets in Wisconsin and northern Illinois. Internet sites report that as of 2006, Woodman’s had 2,200 employees and annual revenue of $2 billion. Earlier this year, Supermarket News ranked Woodman’s No. 75 in its list of “Top 75 North American Food Retailers” based on revenue generated in the 2009 fiscal year. Woodman’s held the same rank on the 2009 list based on 2008 revenues.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the Commission is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.