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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Subway Manager Engaged in Intentional Pregnancy Discrimination



Alabama@Work
By Tommy Eden, Attorney

Belinda Murillo applied for a position at a Subway in Central Phoenix in May 2006. Later that month, when Murillo returned to check on the status of her application, the general manager told her, “You’re pregnant. We can’t hire you.” The general manager admitted in sworn testimony that he had made that statement.

In EEOC v. High Speed Enterprise, Inc, dba Subway, the EEOC filed suit against the Subway’s owner, Phoenix-based Highspeed, Inc., after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. Pregnancy discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978.

On June 29 in Phoenix a federal judge ruled yesterday that a Phoenix Subway fast-food restaurant violated federal law when it refused to hire a female job applicant because she was pregnant. The judge ruled that “A plaintiff may establish her case through direct or circumstantial evidence … Direct evidence is evidence, which if believed, requires the conclusion that unlawful discrimination was at least a motivating factor in the employer’s actions … [the EEOC] has provided direct evidence of discrimination.”

The court agreed with the EEOC, without the need to go to a jury trial that Subway engaged in intentional sex and pregnancy discrimination. The court found that Subway failed to offer any legal explanation as to why Murillo’s application was denied. The case will now go to a jury trial on damages. The EEOC is seeking back pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages and appropriate injunctive relief.

Common Sense Counsel: Pregnancy discrimination remains a persistent problem in the 21st century workplace according to the EEOC. Employers cannot refuse to hire women simply because they are pregnant, and women should never be forced to choose between motherhood and their livelihood, especially in these difficult economic times. The action of this Subway manager is outrageous. This is lack of training or policy or both. Don’t be the employer of a manager with his hair on fire.

Tommy Eden is a Lee County native, an attorney with the local office of Capell & Howard, P.C. and a member of the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law and serves on the Board of Directors for the East Alabama SHRM Chapter. He can be contacted at tme@chlaw.com or 334-501-1540.