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Pregnant Temp Terminated for Complaining About Discrimination, EEOC Said

PHOENIX– The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today that it has settled its pregnancy discrimination and retaliation lawsuit against two international corporations for $64,500 in monetary relief and remedial relief and that Federal District Court Judge G. Murray Snow signed the consent decrees resolving this case.

The EEOC’s suit (Case No. 2:08-CV-0221-PHX-GMS in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona) charged that Otto Bock Healthcare, LP, which does business in Tempe as Ortho Rehab, discriminated against Heidi Fisher, a temporary employee. The EEOC charged that the company failed to hire Fisher for two open permanent positions because of her pregnancy and because she complained to company management about pregnancy discrimination. At the time of the alleged discrimination, Fisher had been working at Ortho Rehab for several months on a placement through employment agency Robert Half International, Inc., which does business as Office Team.

The EEOC also charged that Otto Bock ended Fisher’s temporary employment in retaliation for her complaints of pregnancy discrimination. Robert Half International, the EEOC said, honored Otto Bock’s request to end Fisher’s temporary assignment despite its knowledge that the request was retaliatory.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy or sexual harassment) or national origin and protects employees who complain about such offenses from retaliation.

“Employers must be mindful that they face serious consequences if they discriminate against their employees,” said Chester V. Bailey, director of the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office, which has jurisdiction for Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and part of New Mexico (including Albuquerque). “We are very concerned about the increase in pregnancy discrimination charges, which surged from 3,977 filings in 1997 to 6,285 in 2008 – an alarming trend.”

In addition to paying $64,500, the EEOC settlement by consent decrees requires Otto Bock and Robert Half International to provide training and other relief aimed at educating their employees about sex discrimination, including pregnancy discrimination, and their rights under Title VII.

“Federal law protects both permanent and temporary employees from discrimination and retaliation in the workplace,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill. “As more companies choose temporary labor to fill their staffing needs, it is important for both those companies and employment agencies to be aware of their obligations to prevent discrimination and appropriately respond to allegations of discrimination. ”

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at