EEOC Said Nightclub Fired Bartender Because She Was Expecting
EL PASO, Texas – 54 Downtown, Inc., a Texas corporation which owned and operated Studio 69, a downtown El Paso nightclub, has agreed to pay $15,000 and furnish other relief to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit (Civil Action No. EP-08-CV-0374-PRM), filed in the El Paso Division of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, 54 Downtown, Inc., through the actions of its owners, Bahram Razy and Houshang Shirazi, violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when it fired Crystal Aguilar from her job as a bartender at Studio 69 because of her pregnancy.
During this lawsuit, 54 Downtown, Inc. admitted that Aguilar was placed on what the company referred to as “leave” because of her pregnancy and that she was not told the date on which this “leave” was to end. It was undisputed that prior to placing Aguilar on “pregnancy / maternity leave,” the employer had neither requested nor received any information from her doctor regarding her physical ability to perform her job duties.
“In a 1991 case called International Union et al. v. Johnson Controls, the United States Supreme Court explicitly held that the decision to work while being pregnant was reserved for each individual, not her employer, to make,” said EEOC Trial Attorney Tisha Dominguez. “This employer took unlawful action based on pregnancy-related assumptions about Crystal Aguilar’s physical ability to continue to perform her job duties that were not even based on any kind of medical information.”
“Ms. Aguilar was terminated at a time when she most needed her job, simply because of outdated and sexist stereotypes about pregnant women,” said Aguilar’s attorney, Francisco X. Dominguez, of the law firm of Dominguez & Coyle, P.L.L.C. “She appreciates the EEOC’s efforts to protect working women like her.”
In addition to agreeing to pay Aguilar $15,000, 54 Downtown, Inc. is enjoined from engaging in any employment practice which discriminates on the bases of sex and/or pregnancy. 54 Downtown, Inc., which has sold Studio 69, has also agreed that it will post a notice regarding its intention not to discriminate against any employees, and that it will provide training to all of its employees on the subject of the employment provisions of Title VII, including sex and pregnancy discrimination, if it resumes business within the next five years.
“In pregnancy cases such as this, the monetary damages are often relatively modest, but the injunction against future conduct is extremely important to protecting the rights of other women who may simply wish to be working moms,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Robert Canino of the Dallas District Office. “It is a shame that in this day and age, we still have to get that message out through court action, but the public nature of law enforcement can serve as one effective form of preventative education.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the Commission is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.