A discrimination claim by a pregnant Chipotle employee strikes a blow for pregnant employees everywhere. In a recent decision, the court awarded Doris Garcia Hernandez $550,000 in compensatory and punitive damages after she was treated unfairly and, ultimately fired based on pregnancy-related issues.
Ms. Hernandez became pregnant while working for Chipotle in Washington, DC in 2011. When she told her manager (referred to in the suit only as “David”) that she was pregnant, he restricted her access to water and bathroom breaks. According to the suit, David told her that whenever she was going to take a bathroom break she had to announce to every employee in the store where she was going. He also said he had to approve her bathroom breaks. Hernandez alleged that other employees were not required to go through this process.
In addition, David ignored her repeated requests to leave work early for pre-natal appointments. She left early to attend one appointment and was fired the next day, in front of the other employees and in the middle of the restaurant.
With its verdict earlier this month, a U.S. District Court jury in Washington, DC, made the case loud and clear that such behavior is not allowed in the workplace.
The lesson here for employers and employees is clear: discrimination based on an employee’s pregnancy is illegal. The Federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act “forbids discrimination based on pregnancy when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, such as leave and health insurance, and any other term or condition or employment,” according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Connecticut state law includes similar protections. Employers may not harass a woman because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth.
Know your rights in the workplace.