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Safeguarding Your Rights In The Workplace

Terrence Bouvier Robinson

Chipotle hit with $550,000 jury verdict for pregnancy discrimination

On August 5, 2016, a federal jury in Washington D.C., awarded Doris Garcia Hernandez, a former Chipotle employee, $550,000 for suffering discrimination by her employer. The facts of the case are as follows: after Ms. Hernandez informed her manager of her pregnancy, her manager failed to provide reasonable accommodations and in fact made her life at work very difficult. For instance, Ms. Hernandez's manager did not allow her to take restroom and water breaks as necessary. When Ms. Hernandez had to leave work early to attend a prenatal doctor appointment, her manager terminated her.

In trial, Chipotle claimed that it treated Ms. Hernandez no differently than any other employee. The jury disagreed. Of the $550,000 award, $50,000 was meant to compensate Ms. Hernandez for her losses. The remaining $500,000 were punitive damages, intended to punish Chipotle for its illegal conduct.

What are a pregnant woman's rights in the workplace?

The two main federal laws that protect a pregnant woman's rights are the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Under the PDA, pregnant women cannot be discriminated against in any part of their employment. In addition, if a pregnant woman is unable to perform some of her duties at work; her employer may have to make reasonable accommodations for her. These accommodations could include:

  • Alternate work assignments
  • Light duty, or
  • Unpaid or disability leave

Under the FMLA, qualifying employers must provide qualifying employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Under the Texas Labor Code, pregnant employees must receive the same treatment as other employees.

Despite these protections, too many employers believe it is acceptable to discriminate against pregnant employees. If you have reason to believe that your employer discriminated against you due to your pregnancy or for any other reason, it is critical to retain the services of an experienced lawyer. For years, people across Houston and the surrounding areas have placed their trust in the TB Robinson Law Group.

Sources: Jury awards fired Chipotle worker $550,000 in pregnancy discrimination lawsuit, DCIst, August 5, 2016, by Rachel Sadon, Pregnancy discrimination, EEOC.gov, Family and Medical Leave Act, U.S. Department of Labor, Texas Labor Code, Sec. 21.106

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