Employee Fired When Her Pregnancy Became Known to Company, EEOC Charged
MILWAUKEE – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today that Chief U.S. District Judge Charles N. Clevert has entered a $35,000 consent decree that resolves an EEOC pregnancy discrimination lawsuit brought by the agency against a Milwaukee-based company that provides security guard services for government buildings.
The EEOC had charged in its lawsuit that Durable Contract Services, Inc. (DCS) violated federal law by firing an employee, Tenisha Yarbrough, less than a week after she disclosed to her supervisor that she was pregnant. Both the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development and the EEOC, after investigation, concluded that the termination was because of her pregnancy, and EEOC brought suit after attempting to settle the case out of court through its conciliation process.
Terminating, demoting, or otherwise denying job opportunities and benefits to a worker because of pregnancy is a form of illegal sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). The suit (EEOC v. Durable Contract Services, Inc., E.D. Wis. No. 10-CV-536 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin) alleged that Yarbrough was terminated despite the fact she was willing and able to continue her job as a security guard for DCS at the Marcia P. Coggs Center in Milwaukee during her pregnancy. Pre-suit submissions by DCS in the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development proceeding claimed that DCS terminated Yarbrough because of her attendance record and concerns about her safety while she was pregnant. The EEOC’s lawsuit challenged both of these assertions, and asserted that pregnancy was the real reason for the termination.
The case was settled after a voluntary mediation before U.S. Magistrate Judge William Callahan in Milwaukee. The resulting consent decree, signed by Judge Clevert on March 11, 2011, provides that DCS will pay Yarbrough $35,000, including lost pay and compensatory damages. It also includes a prohibition against future pregnancy discrimination or retaliation, and requires that DCS provide training to its employees in regard to pregnancy discrimination.
“The security guard business is a fast-growing segment of the urban employment marketplace, where good entry-level jobs are available to good employees,” said 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. “All employees, including those who become pregnant, are entitled to protection against sex discrimination, where the facts support the individual’s ability to do the job. We appreciate DCS’s willingness to work with us to provide relief for Ms. Yarbrough and to ensure that pregnancy is not a basis – or excuse – for terminating employees.”
The case was litigated by Senior Trial Attorney Brian Tyndall of the EEOC’s Milwaukee Area Office.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information is available on the EEOC’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.