Chipotle Mexican Grill has been ordered by a U.S. District Court jury to award a former employee $550,000 because she was fired for being pregnant. The amount covers $50,000 in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages. An additional award might be added for wages the woman lost and her lawyer’s fees.
The pregnant woman’s case
The terminated employee, Doris Garcia Hernandez, worked in a Chipotle in Washington, D.C. Her boss required her to get someone to replace her when she needed to go to the bathroom. Besides, the boss had to approve the pregnant woman’s bathroom breaks. Hernandez filed discrimination charges because those rules were enforced on her and not on anyone else. Hernandez was fired the day after she left her job early to go to the doctor by her male boss, referred to as only “David” in the 2011 lawsuit.
In order to prevent the pregnant woman from having excessive bathroom breaks, David was also accused of preventing her from drinking water in an effort to minimize her need to go to the bathroom.
Throughout the four-day trial, Chipotle denied the charges. After only three hours of deliberation, the jury made its decision.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission does have the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in place to protect pregnant women in the workforce. Hernandez’s case had merit because she was required to get her bathroom breaks approved while non-pregnant women didn’t have to. The act protects pregnant women from being singled out just because they are expecting. According to the act, the pregnant woman should have been treated as a temporarily disabled employee. Additionally, the act forbids employers from creating a hostile work environment for a pregnant woman.
Response to the award
The Washington Lawyers’ Committee that helped with the case, thanked the jury for its decision to award Hernandez the $550,000 for two main reasons. First of all, it was proven that she was discriminated against. Secondly, it sends a clear message to other bosses that this practice is unlawful.
Hernandez’s has a four-year-old son that she was pregnant with when she was fired from Chipotle Mexican Grill.