Medical Practice Fired Receptionist Who Complained About Pregnancy Discrimination, Federal Agency Charges
BALTIMORE - A large Annapolis, Md.-based internal medicine practice violated federal law when it fired a receptionist because of her pregnancy and in retaliation for her complaints about pregnancy discrimination, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced today.
One day after starting work at Annapolis Internal Medicine as a medical receptionist, Elizabeth Rodriguez disclosed her pregnancy when the medical practice's clinical supervisor was administering to her an influenza vaccination. Despite Rodriguez's request not to tell others of her pregnancy just yet, the clinical supervisor told the office manager that Rodriguez was pregnant. The clinical supervisor then treated Rodriguez more harshly than other employees because of her pregnancy, the EEOC charges.
When Rodriguez complained to the office manager about the adverse treatment, the manager did not address the pregnancy discrimination complaint. Instead, the manager reprimanded Rodriguez and wrote in a counseling warning, that Rodriguez "… had to be honest about her condition to us," and that the manager "was somewhat disappointed with her for not letting me know about her condition," the EEOC said.
The clinical supervisor continued to treat Rodriguez more harshly, including subjecting her to an unwarranted disciplinary action, verbal abuse and physical intimidation, the EEOC said. Annapolis Internal Medicine terminated Rodriguez because of her pregnancy and in retaliation for her complaints about the pregnancy discrimination, according to the lawsuit.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Annapolis Internal Medicine, Civil Action No. 1:13-cv-02831-ELH) in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Baltimore Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. In its lawsuit, the EEOC seeks injunctive relief prohibiting the medical practice from engaging in sex discrimination, including pregnancy discrimination, and retaliation, as well as lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages for Rodriguez, and other affirmative relief.
"It is not somehow 'dishonest' if a woman does not reveal her pregnancy during a job interview," said EEOC Philadelphia District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. "The law is clear - a woman simply does not have to disclose her pregnancy before or after being hired and an employer shall not make employment decisions based on pregnancy."
EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, "Every woman has the right to equal employment opportunities. Instead of addressing Ms. Rodriguez's complaints about pregnancy discrimination, the medical practice compounded the problem by retaliating against her and firing her, and that is why we filed this lawsuit."
The Philadelphia District Office of the EEOC oversees Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the Commission is available at its website, www.eeoc.gov.