Company Fired Supervisor Expecting Twins, Federal Agency Charges
WENATCHEE, Wash. - Wenatchee fruit grower Tiny's Organic violated federal law by firing a farm worker for becoming pregnant, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
The federal agency said that Tiny's Organic took the illegal action against Maria Guillen nine days after she disclosed that she was pregnant with twins. Her employer cited fears for her safety and the company's liability, even though Guillen's doctor had cleared her to perform the job without medical restrictions.
"Not only did my doctor assure me that I was okay to perform my job duties, but thankfully she told me that is was illegal for the company to fire me for being pregnant," said Guillen. "For about six years, I worked so successfully that Tiny's promoted me to supervisor. During that time I experienced a successful pregnancy working without restrictions. It was shocking and confusing to be let go for something that did not impact my work performance!"
Terminating an employee because she is pregnant violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). After first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through conciliation, the EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Tiny's Organics LLC., 2:14-CV-00303) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington. The agency seeks monetary damages on behalf of Guillen, along with injunctive relief that typically would include training on anti-discrimination laws, posting notices, and compliance reporting.
Michael Baldonado, director of the EEOC's San Francisco District Office, which covers Eastern Washington locations, said, "Employers be aware: You do not have the medical or legal authority to decide when and how your pregnant employee works. Leave this arena to your employees and their doctors."
William R. Tamayo, regional attorney for the EEOC's San Francisco District, which also includes Washington state, added, "The EEOC just issued its Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination, highlighting an issue of strategic importance to the agency. And this lawsuit follows other cases we have brought seeking relief for vulnerable farm worker populations in Eastern Washington."
Tiny's Organics is based in East Wenatchee, Wash., and produces cherries, plums, nectarines, peaches and tomatoes for wholesale and farmer's markets.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.