Organization's Policy Requiring Pregnant Employees to Resign Is Discriminatory, Federal Agency Charges
HOUSTON - United Bible Fellowship Ministries, Inc., an organization that provides faith-based, community social services, violated federal law when it forced female employees out of their jobs because of their pregnancies, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit announced today.
According to the EEOC's suit, Shamira Johnson worked as a resource technician, providing home care assistance to disabled individuals. Her duties included housecleaning, light laundering, administering medication, cooking and assisting with personal hygiene and grooming. United Bible terminated Johnson and other pregnant employees according to its "Pregnancy in the Workplace Policy" which required pregnant women in direct client-care positions to stop working during their pregnancy and reapply for a vacant job once they were no longer pregnant. Johnson did not return to work at United Bible after her pregnancy. The policy also unlawfully required applicants to disclose their pregnancy when applying for employment.
Such a policy, and adverse employment actions taken under the policy, violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. United Bible Fellowship Ministries, Inc., Civil Action No. 4:13-cv-02871) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division after attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC is seeking a permanent injunction prohibiting defendant from engaging in any further sex discrimination. The EEOC is also seeking compensatory damages, punitive damages and other relief on behalf of Johnson and other adversely affected pregnant employees.
"An employer cannot dictate through a workplace policy whether a female employee continues to work during her pregnancy, even if the policy arises out of a desire to protect the pregnant employee," said EEOC Houston District Director R.J. Ruff, Jr.
EEOC Regional Attorney Jim Sacher said, "The Supreme Court has made clear that the decision whether a pregnant woman should work rests solely with her. She, and not the employer, is responsible for making decisions that affect her safety and that of her child. An employer's policy which forces leave on a pregnant employee is exactly the type of conduct the Supreme Court has found to be unlawful."
The Houston District Office of the EEOC oversees Eastern Texas and Louisiana.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.