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Southwest Dental Group Pays $ 130,000 To Settle EEOC Pregnancy Discrimination Suit

Upper-Level Manager Discharged Employees Who Became Pregnant, Federal Agency Charged

SAN DIEGO – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced the simultaneous filing and $130,000 settlement of its pregnancy discrimination lawsuit against Southwest Dental Group, a former El Centro-based dental practice.

According to the EEOC, an upper-level management official of the dental practice routinely made inquiries during interviews of female applicants regarding their marital status; whether they were or planning to become pregnant; and if they had children. Furthermore, at least three former female employees were either demoted, discharged or forced to resign as a result of their pregnancies. One of those female employees was discharged during pregnancy. Another was demoted and ultimately discharged after she was unable to follow the manager’s instruction to take only two weeks of maternity leave following an unanticipated C-section. Upon return from maternity leave, a third female employee was forced to resign after she was demoted from her prior position of assistant manager to that of a clerk tasked with passing out flyers in a parking lot.

The EEOC filed the lawsuit and consent decree resolving the matter in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California (EEOC v. Melissa Mani Dental Corporation d/b/a Southwest Dental Group, Case No. 10-CV-1962-BEN-WMc). Aside from the monetary relief, the parties entered into a four-year consent decree requiring that the offending management official attend two separate live training programs regarding discrimination issues with an emphasis on pregnancy discrimination. The decree also requires that, in the event Southwest Dental Group opens a new practice within the next four years, it will appoint an equal employment opportunity (EEO) consultant; create and implement anti-discrimination policies and procedures; and periodically report to the EEOC regarding its handling of internal complaints and compliance with the decree.

“The question of whether or not a woman is pregnant, wants to have children or already has them, cannot play a role in an employer’s decision to hire,” said Anna Park, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office. “Moreover, the law expressly forbids employers from taking adverse employment actions against women in their work force because they become pregnant.”

Marla Stern, local director of the EEOC’s San Diego Local Office, added, “Women have the right to work through their pregnancies and return to their positions following a reasonable maternity leave. Not only is it unconscionable that an employer would go to such great lengths to exclude women who decide to have children, but it is also against federal law.”

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at