Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Plaintiff Verdict in Lawsuit for Firing Due to Pregnancy

Lately, I have been discussing my experience with the various aspects of wrongful termination lawsuits in Pennsylvania.  Read some of my prior posts on Pennsylvania wrongful termination here: "Think You Were Wrongfully Terminated?"  "Worried About Wrongful Termination?" and "Exceptions to Wrongful Discharge Lawsuits". I will discuss both the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act and the Equal Employment Opportunity Act in the near future. As I have already discussed, these acts permit theories of wrongful termination beyond what is presently permitted by Pennsylvania’s common-law law regarding wrongful discharge. For instance, in the matter of Barnes v. John C.R. Kelly Realty, the plaintiff successfully maintained a lawsuit for wrongful termination as a result of becoming pregnant.

In this case, Barnes, the plaintiff, brought this discrimination suit against the defendant realty company under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (43 P.S. Section 951). Barnes alleged that she was wrongfully terminated by the defendant as a result of becoming pregnant. The defendant denied that the plaintiff was terminated based on her pregnancy. To the contrary, the defense contended that the plaintiff quit after being told that her job performance was lacking.

Barnes testified that she was hired by the defendant as a part-time property manager in training and was taking classes to obtain her real estate license. The plaintiff worked for the defendant for just 26 days, until November 26, 2006 when she informed her supervisor that she was pregnant. The plaintiff alleged that she was fired two days later as a result of the pregnancy. The plaintiff testified that her supervisor told her that the owner of the company ordered her to be terminated because her baby would be due in July, the defendant's busiest season.

The owner of Kelly Realty denied knowledge of the plaintiff's pregnancy. The supervisor acknowledged that Barnes had informed her that she was pregnant. But the supervisor also testified that she confronted the plaintiff regarding poor job performance, including failing to turn off lights and lock doors in the apartments that the plaintiff showed to prospective tenants. The plaintiff also left her station several times without authorization, according to the defendant. The supervisor testified that she did not terminate the plaintiff but rather when she told the plaintiff that the owner of the company was reconsidering whether the plaintiff could become a property manager, the plaintiff walked out and never returned. The defendant thus argued that it was Barnes who quit her job.

The case was tried as a bench trial presided over by the Honorable Alan D. Hertzberg. Judge Hertzberg found that the defendant unlawfully discriminated against the plaintiff. The plaintiff was awarded $11,250 in back pay. A determination regarding the amount of attorney fees to be awarded to the plaintiff is pending. Share this post :
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