Wenatchee Fruit Grower to Pay $17,500 for Firing Supervisor Who Is Pregnant With Twins
SEATTLE - Wenatchee fruit grower Tiny's Organic will pay $17,500 and implement preventative measures to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
The federal agency charged that Tiny's Organic fired Maria Guillen nine days after she disclosed that she was pregnant with twins. Guillen was a six-year employee who had successfully worked her way up from field laborer to supervisor. Her employer cited fears for her safety and company liability, even though Guillen's doctor had cleared her to perform the job without medical restriction, said the EEOC.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or any medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Tiny's Organics LLC., 14-cv-00303-TOR) in September 2014 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington after a neutral investigation led by EEOC Investigator Annalie Greer, and only after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through the agency's conciliation process.
Under the consent decree settling the suit, Tiny's Organic will pay Guillen $17,500 and also take steps to prevent future gender or pregnancy discrimination. These measures include providing an anti-discrimination policy and annual training to all management and staff in both English and Spanish. The company also agreed to institute procedures for handling complaints and to hold management and supervisors accountable for responding to these matters. In addition, Tiny's Organic will post a notice regarding the case, and report annually to the EEOC for a two-year period.
"Congress made it clear that under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the decision to work while being pregnant is reserved for each individual woman to make for herself," said Nancy Sienko, director of the EEOC's Seattle Field Office, which covers Eastern Washington. "Paternalistic attitudes can result in unequal treatment of pregnant employees at work, which is illegal. We are pleased that Tiny's Organic was committed to resolving this matter and taking steps to ensure future compliance with the law."
Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo referenced the EEOC's July 2014 Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination, which mentions a study by the National Partnership for Women & Families finding that pregnancy discrimination complaints have risen at a faster rate than the steady influx of women into the workplace: "Pregnancy discrimination claims filed by women of color increased by 76% from FY 1996 to FY 2005, while pregnancy discrimination claims overall increased 25% during the same time period."
Tamayo added, "This lawsuit also follows other cases we have brought seeking relief for vulnerable farmworker populations in Eastern Washington."
Eliminating discriminatory policies affecting vulnerable workers who may be unaware of their rights under equal employment laws or reluctant or unable to exercise them is one of six national priorities identified by the EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP). These policies can include disparate pay, job segregation, harassment and human trafficking.
Tiny's Organics is based in East Wenatchee, Wash., and produces cherries, plums, nectarines, peaches and tomatoes for wholesale and farmer's markets.
EEOC Senior Trial Attorney May Che and Supervisory Trial Attorney John Stanley litigated the case on behalf of the government.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.