Calif. dental group settles pregnancy discrimination suit

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on September 21 announced the simultaneous filing and $130,000 settlement of its pregnancy discrimination lawsuit against Southwest Dental Group, a former El Centro, CA-based dental practice.

According to the EEOC, an upper-level management official of the dental practice routinely made inquiries during interviews of female applicants regarding their marital status, whether they were or planning to become pregnant, and if they had children.

Furthermore, at least three former female employees were demoted, discharged, or forced to resign as a result of their pregnancies, the EEOC said. One of the employees was discharged during pregnancy, while another was demoted and ultimately discharged after she was unable to follow the manager's instruction to take only two weeks of maternity leave following an unanticipated C-section. Upon returning from maternity leave, a third female employee was forced to resign after she was demoted from her prior position of assistant manager to that of a clerk tasked with passing out flyers in a parking lot.

"The question of whether or not a woman is pregnant, wants to have children, or already has them cannot play a role in an employer's decision to hire," said Anna Park, regional attorney of the EEOC's Los Angeles District Office, in the release. "Moreover, the law expressly forbids employers from taking adverse employment actions against women in their work force because they become pregnant."

The EEOC filed the lawsuit and consent decree resolving the matter in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California (EEOC v. Melissa Mani Dental Corporation d/b/a Southwest Dental Group, Case No. 10-CV-1962-BEN-WMc). Aside from the monetary relief, the parties entered into a four-year consent decree requiring that the offending management official attend two separate live training programs regarding discrimination issues with an emphasis on pregnancy discrimination.

The decree also requires that if Southwest Dental Group opens a new practice within the next four years, it needs to appoint an equal employment opportunity consultant, create and implement antidiscrimination policies and procedures, and periodically report to the EEOC regarding its handling of internal complaints and compliance with the decree.

"Women have the right to work through their pregnancies and return to their positions following a reasonable maternity leave," said Marla Stern, director of the EEOC's San Diego office. "Not only is it unconscionable that an employer would go to such great lengths to exclude women who decide to have children, but it is also against federal law."

Copyright © 2010

Page 1 of 348
Next Page