Tuesday, July 5, 2011

$1.2 Million In Punitives To Woman Fired For Maternity Leave

The wrongful termination case of Carole Smith v. Normandy Properties LLC saw a sizable punitive damage award for an improper firing in Pittsburgh.  This is another verdict related to a case in which the plaintiff was pregnant.  It seems that juries and judges have little tolerance for mistreatment of those bringing children into the world.

Carole Smith sued Normandy Properties LLC in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania on March 19, 2007, alleging that it discriminated against her when she was pregnant. Smith worked for Normandy, a property management company, beginning in July 2002. By April 2005 she had attained the position of property manager. She then notified her employer that she was pregnant. At her doctors' advice she began maternity leave on Oct. 20, 2005. She delivered her baby by cesarean section on Nov. 8, and her son spent two weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit. Smith was scheduled to see her doctor on Dec. 29 to determine when she would go back to work. Teh defendant employer, however, advised Smith that if she did not return to work by Nov. 30, it would assume that Smith had "voluntarily terminated" herself. Smith was subsequently terminated on November 30th. As a result, Smith brought claims of violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S. Code Section 2000e-2(a)(1) against her employer

Interestingly, after the lawsuit was filed, Smith's employer hired her back as a leasing agent. Smith obtained a verdict of $1.8 million ($600,000 in compensatory damages, $1.2 million in punitive damages). Smith then moved for an injunction barring Normandy from retaliating against her.  I have embedded a copy of Smith's complaint here:



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