• 202-980-3857202-980-3857

SPLF Employment Blog

pregnancy discrimination

Three Ex-Employees Share a $6.2 Million Verdict in Pregnancy Discrimination Case

Discriminated against because of a past pregnancy? Contact us.A jury in a New York state court found the defendant, the three plaintiffs’ former employer, liable under state law for harassment and terminating their employment because of their pregnancies. The total damages award comes to nearly $6.2 million.

Three former administrative workers of G.E.B. Medical Management, Inc., Marlena Santana, Yasminda Davis, and Melissa Rodriguez, filed the lawsuit against the company and its owner, Bruce Paswall, in 2008. The verdict was announced on September 15 after a month-long trial. The three claimed that after their employer learned they were pregnant, Paswall harassed them and office manager Peter Ayende discriminated against and later fired them.

The jury awarded the plaintiffs the following:

  • $1.5 million in compensatory damages to each plaintiff for pain and suffering,
  • $1.5 million in punitive damages, and
  • lost wages totaling about $180,000.

preg2The complaint spells out how personal feelings played out in a Manhattan medical office, violating anti-discrimination laws.

  • Paswall may have been motivated by the actions of a previous pregnant employee who quit without notice.
  • After Santana told management about her pregnancy in 2006, the positive treatment she received ended and management became hostile.
  • Santana claimed she was removed from front office tasks and her work become more demeaning, including filling water bottles, getting snacks and soda from a store, and spending 10 days redacting and changing medical records instead of shredding them.
  • Santana’s work was cut in half after she became pregnant. A part-time worker was hired to perform the work she had been doing.
  • The new employee, a woman who was not pregnant, was given preferential treatment.
  • Santana was fired without a plausible explanation in the fall of 2006.

Violation of New York State Human Rights Law               

An important note in this case is that the pregnant workers brought their claims under the New York Human Rights Act. A crucial distinction between this law and federal law is that there are no caps on the damages that juries can award.

Had this case been brought under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the emotional distress and punitive damages would have been capped at a total of $500,000—clearly far short of the $3 million awarded in this case.

Maryland and District of Columbia laws also prohibit negative employment actions based on pregnancy. These laws also do not have caps on damages like federal anti-discrimination law.

Federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act

preg1In 1978, the federal Title VII statute, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion, and nationality, was amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act to include a prohibition against pregnancy-based discrimination.

The federal agency enforcing the law, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), issued guidelines in 2014 (and updated them in 2015) stating that employers with at least 15 employees not only couldn’t take actions against a pregnant employee due to the pregnancy but also needed to accommodate her in certain circumstances.

  • Lactation and breastfeeding are viewed by the EEOC as pregnancy-related medical conditions that need to be accommodated.
  • Employers can’t force pregnant workers to take a leave from work if they’re still able to do the job.
  • Parental policies must be the same for men and women. Parental leave is different than a medical leave that may be needed due to giving birth or recovering from childbirth.
  • Employers need to provide accommodations for workers with pregnancy-related impairments, such as gestational diabetes or pre-eclampsia.

Summing It Up

It’s against federal and many state laws to discriminate against female employees because of pregnancy.

  • This can happen through harassment, reduced wages, and termination of employment.
  • If you become pregnant, keep notes and document any changes in employer behavior that shows a bias due to your pregnancy. This includes negative actions toward you and preferential treatment of nonpregnant employees. Include the names of witnesses.
  • Document when you informed your employer of your pregnancy and to whom you gave that notice. Keep copies of any written notice of the pregnancy.
  • E-mails or memos concerning your treatment should be saved.
  • If you feel you’re being discriminated against and have evidence to document it, file an internal complaint of discrimination with management or human resources.
  • If this fails to help you or your treatment worsens, contact our office.

If you have questions about pregnancy discrimination or concerns about your treatment at your workplace, contact our office so we can talk about your situation, applicable laws, and actions you can take to protect your rights and interests.



Share this post

Latest Articles

The Biggest Theft That Nobody Is Talking About

The Biggest Theft That Nobody Is Talking About

At a time when billionaire extraordinaire Elon Musk is dominating headlines with his multi-billion-dollar buying spree, there is another story worth billions that is curiously absent from our Twitter feeds. Unfortunately, rather than recount the spending of riches, this story tells the tale of one of the greatest thefts in American history. Every hour, millions …

The Biggest Theft That Nobody Is Talking About Read More »

Maryland Passes Two Bills To Strengthen Anti-discrimination and Harassment Protection In The Workplace

Maryland Passes Two Bills To Strengthen Anti-discrimination and Harassment Protection In The Workplace

Last night the Maryland General Assembly passed two bills, SB 450 and SB 451, which will increase protections for victims of harassment and discrimination in the workplace.  SB 450 eliminates the ‘severe or pervasive’ standard for harassment claims and creates a new standard for harassment claims in the workplace. The prior ‘severe or pervasive’ standard …

Maryland Passes Two Bills To Strengthen Anti-discrimination and Harassment Protection In The Workplace Read More »

DMV Survey Series: Wage Theft Edition

DMV Survey Series: Wage Theft Edition

*In this series, the author will explore the differences in specific areas of the law between D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, and hopefully answer the age-old question: which state is best for employees? Please remember that this blog post, like all of our posts, offers general information and is NOT legal advice. – Upon reading this …

DMV Survey Series: Wage Theft Edition Read More »

The Supreme Court Decides to Block and Uphold Biden’s Vaccination Mandates

The Supreme Court Decides to Block and Uphold Biden’s Vaccination Mandates

On January 13, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court made two major decisions. These related to President Biden’s attempts to increase the number of workers who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. The first decision temporarily blocked the vaccinate-or-test regulation that applied to employers with 100 or more employees. The second decision allowed the vaccination requirement …

The Supreme Court Decides to Block and Uphold Biden’s Vaccination Mandates Read More »

Talk To A Real Person