Lawsuits Filed Against Chipotle After More Than 700 Sickened in Ohio
A jury in the District of Columbia has awarded $550,000 in damages to a former employee of Chipotle who said she was discriminated against and eventually fired for being pregnant. According to a report in the Washington Post, Doris Garcia Hernandez, 31, who worked at the Chipotle in Dupont Circle said her supervisor began restricting access to drinking water and forbidding routine breaks after she informed him she was pregnant in November 2011, according to a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
She was fired a few months later after she left work early to go to a prenatal doctor’s appointment. An eight-member jury deliberated for about three hours before awarding Hernandez $50,000 in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages. An attorney for the organization that helped represent the worker said the decision is a victory for all working women because it sends a clear message to employers that pregnancy “is not incompatible with the workplace.”
Hernandez’s case spurred the D.C. Council to pass the Protecting Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which requires employers to provide pregnant workers with basic accommodations such as access to drinking water and more frequent bathroom breaks. The new law and this verdict will hopefully go a long way in helping low-wage workers and immigrants fight gender and pregnancy discrimination. It is outrageous to ask a woman to choose between her job and a routine prenatal appointment.
Protections for Pregnant Workers
Under federal law, it is unlawful to harass a woman because of pregnancy, childbirth or a medical condition that is related to pregnancy or childbirth. Harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision such as a victim being fired or demoted.
If a woman is temporarily not able to perform her job due to pregnancy or a related condition, the employer is required to treat her in the same way as they treat any other temporarily disabled employee. Examples might be providing lighter duties, alternative assignments, disability leave or unpaid leave to pregnant employees just as they would for other temporarily disabled employees.
If you have been harassed, discriminated against or fired from your job because you were pregnant, please remember that you have legal rights. You may be eligible to receive compensatory and punitive damages. Please contact an experienced California employment lawyer to obtain more information about pursuing your legal rights.