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© 2015 Zuckerman Spaeder LLP

Showing 7 posts in Pregnancy Discrimination.

You’re In the Zone… Of A Massive Punitive Damages Verdict for a Pregnant Manager

On Monday, AutoZone found itself on the wrong end of a $185 million verdict in favor of a former store manager, Rosario Juarez.  Yes, you read that right.  $185 million.  This stunning verdict appears to have been the result of Juarez’s allegations of discrimination and retaliatory discharge, combined with an insider turned witness who provided extremely damaging testimony against the auto parts retailer.

In her complaint, Juarez alleged that AutoZone had a “glass ceiling” for women employees, which it kept in place through a hidden promotion process where open positions were not posted.  According to Juarez, she succeeded in cracking the glass ceiling, securing a store manager position, but when she became pregnant, she was treated differently by her district manager.  After giving birth, she complained about the unfair treatment and was soon demoted by the manager, who told her that she could not be a mother and handle her job.  Later, she was terminated as the result of a loss prevention inquiry, in which she refused to participate in a “Q&A” statement about a theft at the store.  Juarez alleged that the loss prevention department’s request for a statement was a pretext to fire her. 

We’ve spent a lot of time on this blog discussing allegations of pregnancy discrimination like these (see, for example, here, here and here).  The short of it is that a company can’t treat pregnant women, or women who have  given birth, differently than it treats other employees.  But we’ve never covered a verdict for pregnancy discrimination that looked more like a Powerball win than a litigation result. Read More ›

The Inbox - March 29, 2013

Grab your matzoh or Scotch cream eggs or whatever your favorite snack is this time of year and settle in for this week’s Inbox on Suits by Suits:

The Inbox - February 1, 2013

Before you root, root, root for the Ravens in Superbowl XLVII; before you go pick up with that 100-piece platter of buffalo wings; before you even crack open a single cold one, you owe it to yourself to read this week's super-sized Inbox:

  • A California appellate court reversed a trial court verdict for Julie Gilman Veronese, which had awarded her $1.3 million in damages against her former employer, Lucasfilm Ltd., which had terminated Ms. Veronese upon finding that she was pregnant out of claimed "concern for the health of the fetus."  Veronese has appealed to the California Supreme Court, which has 60 days to decide whether or not to take the case.  We'll be watching.
  • A Florida appellate court has sought the guidance of the Florida Supreme Court as to whether a judge must recuse himself from cases in which he is "Facebook friends" with the prosecutor.
  • In a story that's near and dear to us here at Suits by Suits, Martha Neil of the ABA Journal has written a short article collecting stories under the banner "When can workers be fired for Facebook posts and tweets?"   As you may know, we've had quite a lot to say on the subject; see our Facebook-related posts here, here, here, here, and here, just for starters.
  • A New York state court judge has dismissed a wrongful termination suit filed by an employee of an agency of the United Methodist Church under the so-called "ministerial exception," ruling that to adjudicate the dispute would require him as a judge to interpret the denomination's religious code of conduct and thus violate the First Amendment.  The employee, Douglas Mills, had argued that his role was "primarily secular" in terms of promoting interfaith dialogue with other churches; the Court held that "even if Mills performed primarily secular duties, the ministerial exception will apply if his job duties reflected a role in conveying the church's message and carrying out its mission."
  • It isn't all good news for churches, though; the St. Louis-based Truth in the World Deliverance Ministries Church found itself rather uncomfortably in the news this week after its pastor, Alois Bell, scratched out a tip at a local Applebee's, writing "I give God 10%, why do you get 18?" and replacing the six-dollar tip with $0.  How do we know that Pastor Bell did such a thing?  Because another waitress, outraged and insulted at the lack of a tip, snapped a photo of the receipt and posted it to the online site reddit.  The receipt went viral and Pastor Bell was shamed; unfortunately, the waitress who posted it was fired.
  • If a $6 tip strikes you as extravagant, how about a $13 million one?  After having negotiated a $3.3 billion deal to sell off several of grocery and retail giant Supervalu's brands, outgoing CEO Wayne Sales will receive a $12.8 million severance package (a "golden parachute") before being replaced by Sam Duncan at some point in the first quarter of 2013, according to Supervalu's SEC filings.  Sales earns his golden parachute after a mere six months on the job.
  • A federal judge in Washington, D.C. dismissed a wrongful termination lawsuit brought by former law professor Stephanie Brown against U.D.C.'s David A. Clarke School of Law, arguing that she had been improperly denied tenure in violation of the school's faculty handbook, as well as fired on the basis of race and gender.  The court determined that the handbook was not a binding contract and that Prof. Brown had presented insufficient evidence of race and gender discrimination.
  • Finally, Robert Grattan of the Austin Business Journal penned two articles on covenants not to compete:  "Keys to a good noncompete contract," and "Who reads those noncompete contracts?  Not enough."

Tip: Don't Blame A Pregnant Woman's "Hormones" For Job Performance Before Firing Her

Bun in OvenLet’s start this story with a basic truth: it’s generally a bad idea to tell a pregnant woman that her hormones will make her “get emotional” and get “caught up in things” in a way that affects her judgment. 

You need not take this from me as a lawyer-blogger.  Take it from me as a guy whose wife is pregnant with our first child.  Blaming anything in our house on pregnancy hormones is a one-way ticket to the basement couch. 

It’s also a bad idea to say this to a pregnant employee, as department-store chain Target Stores is learning.  We’ve written about the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 before, and in some high-profile contexts.  But the case of Spigarelli v. Target, which will move forward in federal court in Pennsylvania now that Target has lost its summary judgment motion, shows that this lesson continues to bear discussion.  Read More ›

‎“Wow, all these pregnant girls, what are we going to do with them?”‎

For the second time during this quiet week in late August, pregnancy is in the headlines. 

The first time, of course, involved Rep. Todd Akin, a candidate for the U.S. Senate from Missouri who claimed – and then swiftly retracted – that women who are “legitimately raped” don’t get pregnant.  That’s led pregnancy – and abortion politics – to dominate news coverage. 

But here’s another story with pregnancy at its core: this week, a federal judge in Manhattan ruled that a former buyer for fashion house Gucci can move forward with her case alleging that the luxury-goods company fired her after she became pregnant.  Read More ›

A Pregnancy Discrimination Pause - Part 2

On Monday, we talked about how plaintiffs can prove pregnancy discrimination by direct evidence – the proverbial “smoking gun.”  Now, it’s time to tackle how a plaintiff can prove pregnancy discrimination under the McDonnell-Douglas test, through making a prima facie case of discrimination and then rebutting the employer’s assertion that it acted for legitimate, nonpretextual reasons.  Once again, the star of our hypothetical scenario is Marissa Mayer, the newsworthy new Yahoo! CEO. Read More ›

A Pregnancy Discrimination Pause

A Pregnancy Discrimination PauseMarissa Mayer is big news these days.  She’s the new Yahoo! CEO, at only 37 years old.  She’s also expecting her first child, and made waves when she told Fortune Magazine that her maternity leave would be a “few weeks long” and she’d “work through it.” 

All of the hullaballoo over Mayer’s career and personal life made the Suits by Suits team curious.  What if Mayer suffered repercussions at Yahoo! due to her pregnancy or upcoming childbirth?  How would she be able to prove that Yahoo! discriminated against her? Read More ›