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Press Release 06-29-2011

Owner Of Phoenix Subway Engaged In Intentional Pregnancy Discrimination, Court Rules In EEOC Suit

Agency Said Manager Refused to Hire an Applicant Because She Was Pregnant

PHOENIX – In a legal victory for the U.S. Equal Employment  Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal judge ruled yesterday that a Phoenix  Subway fast-food restaurant violated federal law when it refused to hire a  female job applicant because she was pregnant.

According  to the EEOC's suit (EEOC v. High Speed  Enterprise, Inc, dba Subway, CV-08-01789-PHX-ROS), Belinda Murillo applied  for a position at a Subway in Central Phoenix in  May 2006. Later that month, when Murillo  returned to check on the status of her application, the general manager told  her, "You're pregnant. We can't hire  you." The general manager admitted in  sworn testimony that he had made that statement.

Pregnancy  discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended  by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978.  The EEOC filed suit against the Subway's owner, Phoenix-based Highspeed,  Inc., after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its  conciliation process.

Chief  Judge Roslyn O. Silver for U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona agreed  with the EEOC's position. According to  Judge Silver's ruling, "A plaintiff may establish her case through direct or  circumstantial evidence … Direct evidence is evidence, which if believed,  requires the conclusion that unlawful discrimination was at least a motivating  factor in the employer's actions … [the EEOC]  has provided direct evidence of discrimination."

The  case will now go to a jury trial on damages.  The EEOC is seeking back pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages  and appropriate injunctive relief.

"The  court agreed with the EEOC, without the need to go to a jury trial, that Subway  engaged in intentional sex and pregnancy discrimination," said Mary Jo  O'Neill, regional attorney for the EEOC's Phoenix District Office. "The court found that the defendant failed to  offer any legal explanation as to why Murillo's application was denied. Now we will pursue fair damages for this  discrimination victim."

EEOC  trial attorney Nancy Griffiths said, "We are pleased with the court's decision. Pregnancy discrimination remains a  persistent problem in the 21st century workplace. Employers cannot refuse to hire women simply  because they are pregnant, and women should never be forced to choose between  motherhood and their livelihood, especially in these difficult economic times."

EEOC  District Director Rayford Irvin added, "The EEOC would like to remind employers  that pregnancy discrimination has been illegal for decades, and violations of  the law will be met with rigorous enforcement by our agency."

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