Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Expecting a child is usually a happy and exciting time for new mothers. For LuShonda Smith and Charity Brooks of Kansas City, however, the joys of pregnancy were soured when each was subjected to workplace discrimination that resulted in both women losing their jobs.
When Imagine Schools, Inc., a nationwide operator of charter schools, decided to close one of its Kansas City middle schools in favor of reopening a combination high school and middle school, Smith, an office manager, and Brooks, an administrative assistant, were both fired. Both women claim that their employment with Imagine Schools, Inc. was terminated not because of poor performance but because LuShonda Smith and Charity Brooks were both pregnant at the time.
This week, Imagine Schools agreed to pay $570,000 to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit filed on behalf of the two women by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The lawsuit, filed in September 2008 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, claimed that Imagine Schools was guilty of pregnancy discrimination when it chose not to rehire Smith and Brooks at the new school. Pregnancy discrimination is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
The $570,000 will go toward back pay for the two women as well as emotional distress damages and all attorneys' fees. Imagine Schools, Inc. has also agreed to a court approved decree that requires the national company to disseminate a policy on pregnancy discrimination, report all acts of discrimination to the EEOC, and prominently post an official notice that states employee rights as covered by federal anti discrimination laws.
The EEOC, while pleased with the outcome of this particular settlement, is quick to note that pregnancy discrimination has slowly and quietly been on the rise. According to a study done by the agency, pregnancy discrimination charges have increased from 4,160 in 2000 to a staggering 6,196 in 2009.