Retailer Harassed and Terminated Pregnant Employees, Federal Agency Charges
ALLENTOWN, Penn.– dELiA*s Inc., one of the fastest growing specialty retailers in America, harassed two employees, forced one to take maternity leave early, and fired the other employee because she was pregnant and in retaliation for her complaint about the unlawful discrimination, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced today.
The EEOC alleges that Nicole Young, a fashion representative, and Mallory Martin, co-manager, at dELiA*s store in Lehigh Valley Mall in Whitehall, Penn., were repeatedly harassed by management after they told company managers about their respective pregnancies. The harassment included constantly questioning them about their ability to do their jobs, and requiring Young to obtain medical documentation showing that she could perform her job duties.
Martin complained to the district manager and Young complained to the company’s hotline about the pregnancy harassment. Instead of stopping the harassment, the company illegally retaliated against Young when it terminated her, and caused Martin to take early maternity leave, the EEOC says in the lawsuit.
Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 prohibits discrimination based on sex, including pregnancy, and makes it unlawful for an employer to retaliate against an employee for complaining about discrimination. The EEOC first attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement before filing suit in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Civil Action No. 11-5979, In its lawsuit, the EEOC seeks injunctive relief prohibiting discriminatory employment practices based on sex, pregnancy or retaliation, as well as lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages and other affirmative relief for Young and Martin.
“It is unfortunate that more than 33 years after the passage of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, too many employers still react wrongly when they learn about an employee’s pregnancy,” said EEOC District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. “The law is clear—an employer cannot either force a pregnant woman who is able to do her job into taking early maternity leave or fire her because of her pregnancy.”
“No woman should be forced to choose between motherhood and earning a living, ” added regional attorney Debra Lawrence of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office, which oversees Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. “Nor should an employee fear that complaining about illegal conditions will cost her her job. This lawsuit should remind all employers that if they violate federal law, the EEOC will take strong action to protect the rights of pregnant workers.”
According to its website, www.dELiAs.com, dELiA*s, a lifestyle company primarily targeting customers ages 12 to 19, has more than 100 stores in 34 states, including five in Pennsylvania.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.