The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed a lawsuit against an upscale hair salon for alleged discrimination against a former employee. The suit claims that the salon violated federal employment laws by firing an employee after learning she was pregnant. Pregnancy discrimination is prohibited by the same anti-discrimination statutes at the city, state, and federal levels that prohibit other forms of gender bias by employers.
The EEOC alleges that Jessica Manno began working as an assistant colorist at the Warren Tricomi salon located in Manhattan’s Plaza Hotel around February 2010. She had about ten years of experience in the field when the salon hired her. After six months in that position, the owner offered her a promotion to colorist. Three weeks after this, Manno informed the owner that she was pregnant. The owner allegedly told Manno that he had to discuss the matter with the other owners, and then he reportedly stopped returning her calls. The salon fired her around September 1, 2010.
Manno filed a complaint with the EEOC shortly after she was fired. The EEOC reports that, once its investigation concluded that the salon had violated federal law, it attempted to negotiate a voluntary settlement with the salon. It filed this lawsuit in a Manhattan federal district court on September 29, 2011. Manno is seeking back pay and reinstatement as a colorist at the salon, the promotion that the owner had promised her in August 2010. She has not been able to find a job elsewhere since the salon fired her. If the salon does not rehire her, she is asking the court to award her damages for lost wages.
The EEOC is a federal agency charged with enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws. It has the authority to investigate reports of workplace discrimination based on criteria including gender and disability. Sometimes it will file suit directly against employers alleged to have violated the law, but it often issues a “right to sue” letter authorizing a lawsuit by an employment lawyer retained by the victim. The New York City Commission on Human Rights performs a similar function within the city, and the New York State Division of Human Rights does so at the state level.
Discrimination based on pregnancy, or any condition directly related to pregnancy, is clearly a form of gender discrimination. This sort of discrimination could affect men as well as women, if a father lost a job or suffered a reduction in hours or job duties after trying to balance work with caring for a child, but most victims of pregnancy discrimination are the pregnant women themselves.
The EEOC also views this sort of discrimination as a form of disability discrimination. A woman who is unable to perform certain job duties due to pregnancy or a related medical condition has a temporary disability that is protected by anti-discrimination laws. These laws prohibit any sort of adverse employment action based solely on pregnancy, including firing someone, declining to hire someone, denying a promotion, or modifying job duties or amount of hours worked. Some changes to job duties may be necessary due to the realities of pregnancy, but the key is that those changes must be reasonable and temporary.
The New York employment discrimination lawyers at Phillips & Associates protect the rights of employees and job seekers against discrimination because of pregnancy. Contact the firm today to schedule a free and confidential consultation.