After Disclosing Pregnancy, Employee Demoted and Forced to Quit And Relatives Fired, Federal Agency Charged
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Kids R Us, LLC, which owns and operates several child care facilities in Oklahoma, will pay $75,000 and furnish other relief to settle a pregnancy discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
According to the EEOC’s suit, Shawna Capps, who was hired by Kids R Us in July 2009, informed the owners of the company she was pregnant in early March 2010. Later that month, one of the owners of Kids R Us held a meeting where he informed Capps that it was hiring a new administrator at the facility and that Capps was being demoted from her full-time position of assistant facility director to a part-time cook job because she had “decided to get pregnant.” Capps then filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC against Kids R Us. Capps’s sister, Dana Finley, and her cousin, Melissa Capps, also worked for Kids R Us. Melissa Capps protested to the owners the demotion of Shawna Capps as discriminatory. Shortly after Shawna Capps filed her charge with the EEOC, Kids R Us transferred her from its facility in Choctaw, near her home, to its Shawnee facility, effectively forcing her to resign, and then without any stated reason terminated her sister and cousin, the EEOC said.
Pregnancy discrimination and retaliation for opposing it, or for being closely associated with someone who opposes it, violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma (EEOC v. Kids R Us LLC, Case No. CIV-11-1095-HE) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC sought back pay, compensatory and punitive damages and front pay for all three victims and injunctive relief.
In addition to the payment of $75,000 to compensate the victims of discrimination, the consent decree resolving the lawsuit, which must be approved by U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton, also provides for injunctive relief, including posting notification to employees, revision and dissemination of anti-discrimination policies, and live training to all Kids R Us employees on specific anti-discrimination laws, including laws prohibiting pregnancy discrimination and retaliation.
“Pregnancy does not equal inability to work, and no employee should be punished for complaining about illegal treatment of a coworker; or worse yet, simply being related to or closely associated with a coworker who complains,” said EEOC trial attorney Patrick J. Holman. “Thankfully, last year, in Thompson v. North American Stainless, the U.S. Supreme Court specifically expanded retaliation protection to include this last category of victim with those entitled to a remedy.”
“We hope this settlement will serve as an example to all employers that this agency takes seriously the right of people to complain about illegal job discrimination and that we will vigorously enforce the prohibitions against pregnancy discrimination,” said Barbara Seely, Regional Attorney for the St Louis District Office of the EEOC, which includes Oklahoma.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information about the Commission is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.