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PRESS RELEASE
9-16-14

Merry Maids Franchise to Pay $40,000 to Resolve EEOC Pregnancy Discrimination Suit

Agency Charged Home Cleaning Company Fired Employee Because of Her Pregnancy

MILWAUKEE, Wis. - V&B LLC, a Merry Maids home cleaning franchise in Kenosha, Wis., will pay $40,000 and furnish other relief under a consent decree entered here by a federal court in a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

According to the EEOC's suit, V&B fired Belinda Sternemann on June 3, 2011, because she suffered from pregnancy-related health issues. Sternemann, a military veteran who worked for V&B for over two years, was a Team Captain on one of V&B's crews and had an unblemished work record, according to the EEOC. Her pregnancy issues were alleged to be minor and did not prevent her from working.

The EEOC alleged that V&B's conduct violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), which prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy. It also violates Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals who are disabled or perceived to be disabled. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. V&B LLC, d/b/a Merry Maids [Civil Action No. 14-cv-393]) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The consent decree signed on Sept. 15 by U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman, and entered on the docket today, prohibits future discrimination and provides that V&B will pay Sternemann $40,000 and train its managers regarding employee rights and an employer's obligations under Title VII and the ADA.

"Sometimes employers overreact and base employment decisions on an employee's pregnancy," said EEOC Chicago Regional Attorney John C. Hendrickson. "Federal law assures pregnant women that they have the same right as other people to earn a living. The ADA requires employers to engage in discussions with employees they believe to be disabled before taking any action which would affect their employment rights. We're pleased that the consent decree in this case provides fair compensation to Ms. Sternemann for the violation of her rights and includes terms which should preclude similar problems in the future."

The EEOC recently issued enforcement guidance on pregnancy discrimination, along with a fact sheet aimed at small businesses and a question and answer document explaining the law.

V&B is a privately held company, co-owned by Vern Covington and Beth Pinzer, which employs approximately 20 women to provide house cleaning services.

The EEOC's litigation efforts were led by Senior Trial Attorney Dennis R. McBride of its Milwaukee Area Office and Associate Regional Attorney Jean Kamp of its Chicago District Office. That office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the Commission is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.