Exterminator Forced Pregnant Technician to Take Medical Leave, Then Fired Her, Federal Agency Charged
MEMPHIS – Major exterminator Terminix International will pay $80,000 to settle a sex discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC had charged that Terminix unlawfully fired an employee at its McGehee, Ark., location because of her pregnancy.
The EEOC’s suit against Terminix International and its parent company, ServiceMaster Company, both based in Memphis, alleged that a manager forced a pregnant pest technician to take medical leave and then fired her because of her pregnancy. According to EEOC, the female technician informed her employer of a restriction against handling pesticides. The company honored her restriction for approximately six weeks, and then terminated her employment, claiming it did not have enough work for her to perform with this restriction. After discharging the technician, Terminix then hired two male employees to perform reinspections that the female technician could have performed, the EEOC said.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate based on pregnancy when making employment decisions. The EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. 5:09-cv-0233 JMM) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement out of court through its conciliation process.
In addition to the award of monetary damages, the two-year consent decree signed by U.S. District Judge James Moody also enjoins Terminix from unlawfully forcing pregnant employees on medical leave and terminating a pregnant employee on maternity leave based on sex. The decree also requires Terminix to redistribute its discrimination policies, to require employees to sign copies of the policies and to make periodic compliance reports to the EEOC.
“Pregnancy discrimination charges have nearly doubled since 1992,” said Faye Williams, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Memphis District Office. “Many employers operate on the mistaken belief that they may treat pregnant employees differently by forcing them to take medical leave and then terminating them. This settlement should place employers on notice that pregnant employees may not be singled out for termination or forced medical leave.”
According to company information, Terminix International has a worldwide network of locations, including 864 service centers throughout the United States and in 14 countries around the world.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.