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Press Release 10-17-2019

Smiley Dental Settles EEOC Pregnancy Discrimination Suit

 Dentist Office Fired Receptionist After Learning of Her Pregnancy, Federal Agency Charged

DALLAS - Smiley Dental Walnut will pay $20,000 and provide other relief to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

According to the EEOC's suit, Smiley Dental Walnut hired a new front desk receptionist in May 2017. When she disclosed her pregnancy to human resources approximately a month later, she was told that she needed to inform her supervisor. The EEOC said that when the front desk receptionist told her supervisor about her pregnancy, the supervisor became upset and stated that she would no longer train the new employee because she was going to be absent after giving birth. The supervisor fired the front desk receptionist during this conversation.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in the workplace, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division, Case No 3:18-CV-02552, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settle­ment. The EEOC sought back pay and other damages, as well as injunctive relief, including an order barring similar violations in the future.

The two-year consent decree settling the suit entered by U.S. District Judge Karen Gren Scholer on October 16, 2019 prohibits future discrimination and retaliation. In addition to the monetary relief, it requires the employer to provide annual training on pregnancy discrimination and other forms of discrimination. It also imposes discipline up to termination of any manager who discriminates based on pregnancy or permits such conduct to occur under his or her supervision. The decree also requires that Smiley Dental Walnut distribute and post a notice about discrimination based on sex and set forth procedures for reporting discrimination.

"It is important that employers understand that they cannot fire a woman at any stage of her employment simply because she is pregnant and will need maternity leave," said Meaghan Kuelbs, senior trial attorney in the EEOC's Dallas District Office. "Even a new employee should feel comfort­able telling her employer that she is pregnant without fear that such a disclosure will cause her to be fired."

EEOC Regional Attorney Robert Canino added, "Education of employers to move past traditional assumptions about a pregnant employee's perceived lack of value or productivity is key to preventing situations in which expectant mothers unfairly lose income at time they may need it most."

The EEOC's Dallas District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and agency litigation in Texas and parts of New Mexico.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employ­ment discrimination. More information is available at Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.