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DC Law Firm Unhired Pregnant Woman, EEOC charges

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pregnantJames E. Brown & Associates Sued by EEOC for Pregnancy Discrimination
D.C. Law Firm Rescinded Job Offer to Pregnant Applicant, EEOC Charges

WASHINGTON – A Washington, D.C. law firm violated federal law when it refused to hire a job applicant because she was pregnant, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.   

According to the EEOC’s complaint, James E. Brown & Associates, PLLC rescinded its offer of employment to Zorayda J. Moreira-Smith when it learned that she was pregnant.  The EEOC said Moreira-Smith interviewed for an associate attorney position at Brown & Associates around November 2010 and received a job offer in January 2011.  Before Moreira-Smith accepted the job offer, on or around January 6, 2011, she e-mailed the Brown & Associates’ business manager to inquire about the company’s maternity leave policy, among other things.  In the same e-mail, Moreira-Smith informed the business manager that she was six months’ pregnant.  Later that same day, Brown & Associates e-mailed Moreira-Smith and rescinded its job offer, the EEOC said.  The company continued to advertise for the same position and, within three months, hired two associates who were not pregnant.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.  The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. James E. Brown & Associates, PLLC, Civil Action No. 1:12-cv-00262 ), after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement out of court.  The suit seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages for Moreira-Smith, as well as injunctive and other non-monetary relief.   

“Working women who choose to have children cannot be penalized or treated differently from other employees simply because they are pregnant,”said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office, which has litigation authority in the District of Columbia.  “Employers must remember that refusing to hire a woman because she is pregnant violates federal law, and the EEOC will enforce that law.” 

On Feb. 15, the EEOC held a meeting examining pregnancy discrimination and caregiving issues.  In Fiscal Year 2011, the EEOC received 5,868 charges of pregnancy discrimination.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the Commission is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.

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