U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued the following announcement on Sept. 20.
The Bendinelli Law Firm has agreed to pay $30,000 and furnish other relief to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency announced.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, the Bendinelli Law Firm hired a legal assistant in January 2017 for its Denver office. Approximately 10 days into her new position, the legal assistant disclosed her pregnancy to a lawyer in the firm. The law firm terminated her the next day, after asking if she suffered from any complications due to the pregnancy, would she "keep the baby," and whether she was acting as a surrogate, according to the complaint. The EEOC rejected the Bendinelli Law Firm's explanation that it terminated the legal assistant because she failed to disclose her pregnancy in the interview, a move the EEOC challenged as unlawful and discriminatory.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), which prohibits pregnancy discrimination in employment. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court of Colorado (EEOC v. The Bendinelli Law Firm, Case No. 1:17-c-v-02354-RM-KMT) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The two-year consent decree resolving the case requires the Bendinelli Law Firm to pay $30,000 to the former legal assistant. In addition, the decree requires the law firm to adopt and maintain policies and practices that will provide its employees a workplace free of pregnancy discrimination in the future and that will encourage employees to report discriminatory conduct. The law firm will also provide employee training on preventing pregnancy-related discrimination. The law firm also agreed to post an employee notice at their facilities on the provisions of Title VII and the employee's right to a work in an environment free of discrimination.
"We want job applicants to know that they do not have to tell prospective employers that they are pregnant or answer any questions about it," said Elizabeth Cadle, District Director for the EEOC's Phoenix District, which includes Denver in its jurisdiction.
Mary Jo O'Neill, Regional Attorney for the EEOC's Phoenix District, said, "Employers must not discriminate based on pregnancy or on any pregnancy-related reason, including but not limited to an employee's need for pregnancy leave."
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