chipotle employee awarded $550,000

Chipotle Must Pay $550,000 To Employee Fired For Being Pregnant

Former Chipotle employee, Doris Garcia Hernandez, will be awarded $550,000 in compensatory and punitive damages this week after a U.S. District Court jury in Washington, D.C., found her former Chipotle manager discriminated against her for being pregnant, according to the Washington Business Journal.

Christine Tschiderer, an attorney with the Washington Lawyers’ Committee, has this to say about Hernandez.

“It has been five years of litigation, of being questioned and dealing with lawyers and telling a story of a very difficult period of her life—telling it and reliving it…But she is thrilled at the result and very much not just as vindication for what she went through, but a clear message to Chipotle that they can’t do this.”

The filing dates back to 2011 in which Hernandez informed her manager — who is referred to only as “David” — that she was pregnant. Following the disclosure of her pregnancy, Hernandez claims he began restricting her water and bathroom breaks. Hernandez alleges that her boss required her to “announce” to other staff members when she needed to use the restroom. Her boss would then “approve her bathroom breaks so that he could cover her work position for her.”

Hernandez says the manager also refused any requests to leave work to attend her prenatal doctor’s appointment. Hernandez decided to leave anyway which lead her to be fired publicly in front of other employees and customers the following day.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) forbids discrimination based on pregnancy when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, such as leave and health insurance, and any other term or condition of employment.” Likewise, “if a woman is temporarily unable to perform her job due to a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth, the employer or other covered entity must treat her in the same way as it treats any other temporarily disabled employee.”

National advocates took an interest in this case. Hernandez’s case was also one of the drivers behind D.C.’s Protecting Pregnant Workers Fairness Act of 2014. The legislation was introduced by Council member Vincent Orange and requires employers provide “reasonable accommodations” for pregnant women and those who have recently given birth.

“The Chipotle case shed light on why the act was needed…That case was a catalyst for us to study the idea and take a harder look at some of the discrimination that pregnant women face.”

The Protecting Pregnant Workers Fairness Act of 2014 law is meant to stop employers from forcing a pregnant woman out of her job because she needs to take more breaks, refrain from heavy lifting, requires a chair, or similar issues. It is also said that employers have to provide private space to for nursing moms to breast feed. Employers are also required to give new mothers time off to recover from childbirth.

The law shifts the burden of proof from the worker, who previously had to prove she was entitled to an accommodation, onto the employer, who now has to prove that it would be an undue burden. The act went into effect last March.

According to the Washington Business Journal, Chipotle has been sued before for similar cases. In February, a federal grand jury ruled in favor of three former Chipotle managers who sued the company for gender discrimination. The managers cited sexist behavior and unfair firing due to pregnancy.

[Photo by Steve Dykes/Stringer/Getty Images]

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