The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



White Way Cleaners Unlawfully Fired Woman to ‘Protect’ Her, Federal Agency Charges

MINNEAPOLIS – A dry cleaner that has 10 facilities in the Twin Cities violated federal law by firing an employee because she was pregnant, according to a lawsuit filed yesterday by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

In the government’s suit, the EEOC charged that White Way Cleaners maintained a policy barring pregnant women from working in its St. Paul plant. This policy was purportedly to protect the pregnant women from chemicals released during dry cleaning processes. When Michelle Johnson became pregnant the first time, White Way transferred her to a counter job in one of its stores. When she became pregnant again, it terminated her employment. The EEOC contends that White Way Cleaners terminated Johnson because of her pregnancy.

Pregnancy discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended. The EEOC filed suit (Case No. 0:09-cv-02048 MJD/JJG in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota) after first attempting to reach a voluntary resolution out of court.

“White Way Cleaners acted unnecessarily and discriminatorily to bar pregnant women from the plant,” said John Rowe, director of the EEOC’s Chicago District Office, which covers Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and most of Illinois. “Our investigation showed that the chemicals released during White Way’s dry cleaning processes were in levels so minute that they did not pose a concern.”

John Hendrickson, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Chicago District Office, added, “The Supreme Court has made it clear that decisions regarding where and whether to work are to be left to the pregnant woman. Employers cannot restrict women – pregnant or otherwise – from their facilities in anything but the most unique of circumstances. The EEOC contends that this wasn’t one of those circumstances.”

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the Commission is available on its web site at

The EEOC Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

This page was last modified on August 6, 2009.

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