The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a lawsuit against JC Wings Enterprises L.L.C., which does business as Bayou City Wings, for alleged pregnancy discrimination.
The Baytown, Texas-based restaurant chain's maternity leave policy, which forced layoffs after the first trimester of pregnancy, is unlawful, the EEOC said in a lawsuit filed Sept. 26 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Houston.
Maryann Castillo, who worked at Bayou City Wings from 2008 to May 2011 as a server, bartender and manager, was laid off allegedly due to her pregnancy, according to the lawsuit.
The company's district manager laid off Castillo, who provided a note from her doctor that she could work up to the 36th week of her pregnancy, because of a company policy.
Layoff meant to 'serve as an example'
"Ms. Castillo was informed by defendant's management that Bayou City Wings' customers preferred to not be waited on or served by pregnant employees," the EEOC said in the lawsuit on behalf of Castillo. "Management also told Ms. Castillo that her layoff would serve as an example to show other employees that pregnant employees are, in fact, laid off or forced to take unpaid leave under defendant's pregnancy policy."
According to the suit, eight other women have been similarly laid off due to the company's pregnancy policy.
Bayou City Wings could not be reached for comment.
"Federal law protects the right of a woman to remain gainfully employed during her pregnancy," said Martin Ebel, deputy district director and acting district director for the EEOC's Houston district office, in a statement. "An employer cannot dictate, out of a desire to protect a pregnant employee or for any other reason, whether a female employee continues to work during her pregnancy."
The suit seeks monetary damages on behalf of Castillo to be determined at trial.