Restaurant in Michigan Refused to Hire Pregnant Woman in Violation of Federal Law

On November 4, 2014 the EEOC filed a lawsuit against Crooked Creek & Creekside Bar & Grille (Crooked Creek) restaurant in Saginaw, Michigan, at the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan for violating federal law by refusing to hire a qualified applicant as a food server because she was pregnant.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the job seeker had prior experience working in a restaurant. She applied for a vacant food server position in February 2013. Her first interview with Crooked Creek went well and she was asked to return for a second interview. When the applicant revealed her pregnancy during the second interview, however, Crooked Creek refused to consider her further for the job. To refuse to consider a woman for a job because she is pregnant violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA).

The PDA amended Title VII to state that discrimination “because of sex” includes discrimination “on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.” Further, women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions must be treated the same for all employment-related purposes. In addition to making it unlawful for an employer to refuse to hire a woman because she is pregnant, the PDA also means that if a pregnant woman is temporarily unable to perform the functions of her job due to a pregnancy-related condition, the employer must treat her in the same manner as any other temporarily disabled employee, by providing modified tasks, alternative assignments, disability leave, or leave without pay. Further, an employer may not fire, demote, or deny promotion to a woman because she is or may become pregnant.

New York’s state and city law also provide protection against workplace discrimination because of pregnancy. While neither New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) nor New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) explicitly names pregnancy as a type of discrimination, courts have recognized that both laws provide the same type of protection as the PDA. For instance, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Quaratino v. Tiffany & Co. held that the NYSHRL provides the same protection conferred by the PDA and the standards for establishing unlawful discrimination under the NYSHRL are the same as those under Title VII cases.

A plaintiff claiming that she was unlawfully discharged because of her pregnancy in violation of federal and state laws must first show that (1) she is a member of a protected class; (2) she satisfactorily performed the duties required by the position; (3) she was discharged; and (4) her position remained open and was ultimately filled by a non-pregnant employee. Assuming the plaintiff satisfies the aforementioned requirements, the burden of production shifts to the employer to articulate a legitimate, clear, specific and non-discriminatory reason for discharging the employee. Lastly, if the defendant satisfies this burden of production, the plaintiff has the ultimate burden to prove that the employer’s reason was merely a pretext for pregnancy discrimination.

Pregnant women have the right to participate in the labor market and employers may not force them out. Therefore, there are federal and state laws that give women the necessary protection against this type of discriminatory conduct.

If you believe that your employer has violated your rights because of your pregnancy, please contact The Harman Firm, LLP.