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EEOC Sues Fashion Boutique Delia's for Pregnancy Discrimination

September 23, 2011
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Related Topics: Retaliation, Corporate Culture, Wrongful Discharge, Harassment, Discrimination and EEOC Compliance, Ethics, Latest News
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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has sued a teen fashion boutique for allegedly harassing and discriminating against two pregnant employees.

In a lawsuit filed Sept. 21 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the EEOC accused dELiA*s Inc. of violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, which prohibit discrimination based on sex, including pregnancy, and retaliation against an employee for complaining about discrimination.

In the suit, the EEOC says Nicole Young, a fashion representative, and Mallory Martin, co-manager, both of whom worked at a dELiA*s store in Lehigh Valley Mall in Whitehall, Pa., were harassed repeatedly by management after they told company managers about their respective pregnancies.

The harassment included constant questioning about their ability to perform their jobs because they were pregnant, recommending they take leaves of absence or forcing them to take maternity leave early. The suit also alleges that the company fired one of the employees in retaliation after she complained about being harassed because of her pregnancy.

In a statement, the EEOC said it attempted to reach a prelitigation settlement with the company before filing suit. The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief prohibiting discriminatory employment practices based on sex, pregnancy or retaliation, as well as lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages, and other affirmative relief for the women.

"It is unfortunate that more than 33 years after the passage of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, too many employers still react wrongly when they learn about an employee's pregnancy," EEOC District Director Spencer H. Lewis Jr. said in the statement. "The law is clear—an employer cannot either force a pregnant woman who is able to do her job into taking early maternity leave or fire her because of her pregnancy."

New York-based dELiA*s Inc. did not respond to a request for comment.

The retailer has 573 employees working in more than 100 stores in 34 states.

Joanne Wojcik writes for Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail editors@workforce.com.

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