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PRESS RELEASE
1-30-14

EEOC Sues Benhar Office Interiors for Pregnancy Discrimination

Office Furniture Store Refused to Hire Applicant After Learning of Her Pregnancy, Federal Agency Charges  

NEW YORK - Benhar Office Interiors LLC (Benhar), an office furnishing and architectural store in Manhattan, unlawfully refused to hire an applicant as a full-time controller after it found out that she was pregnant, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced today.

According to the EEOC's suit, in December 2011, the applicant applied for a full-time controller position with Benhar.  The applicant had over 10 years of experience as an accounting manager.  After Benhar interviewed the applicant four times and gave her positive feedback, it extended an offer through a staffing company.  During that conversation, the applicant told the staffing company that she was pregnant.  The next day, the staffing company relayed that information to Benhar's president in an e-mail.  On the same day, Benhar's president responded to the news of the pregnancy by stating that it "might be a deal breaker."  The applicant was not hired, but about one week later, Benhar hired a non-pregnant applicant for the position. 

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.  The lawsuit was filed on January 30, 2014, in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (Civil Case No.: 14-CV-574(GBD)(SN).  The EEOC is seeking injunctive relief prohibiting Benhar from discriminating against individuals based on sex including pregnancy, as well as lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages and other affirmative relief for the applicant.

"The EEOC will continue to take vigorous actions to remedy discrimination against pregnant applicants and employees," said New York District Director Kevin Berry.

Catherine Wan, a trial attorney in the EEOC's New York District Office, said, "Federal law protects women from discrimination based on pregnancy.  Employers have a duty to respect the ability of pregnant women to participate in the workforce, and the EEOC is committed to enforcing the law when employers fall short of this duty."

EEOC Acting Regional Attorney Robert D. Rose added, "A woman's pregnancy should not affect her ability to be hired in the workplace.  The EEOC's investigation revealed that Benhar was ready to hire the applicant based on her qualifications, but decided not to after finding out that she was pregnant."

Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring, especially class-based recruitment and hiring practices that discriminate against racial, ethnic and religious groups, older workers, women, and people with disabilities, is one of six national priorities identified by the EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP). 

According to Benhar's website, www.benharoffice.com, the company provides office interiors products and services, such as office space planning and office furniture delivery and installation.  Benhar is a New York company, and most of its office interiors projects are in New York City.

The EEOC's New York District Office oversees Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and portions of New Jersey.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.  Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.