EEOC Serves Lawsuit to Restaurant for Firing Pregnant Worker

A Clearfield, Utah-based Japanese restaurant violated federal law by firing a server because of her pregnancy, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed earlier this month in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah. According to the agency's suit against Tepanyaki of Clearfield L.L.C. (Case No. 1:09-cv-43 TS), Alison Woodbury was hired by Tepanyaki Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar in approximately February 2007. During her initial training, Tepanyaki discovered that she was pregnant and immediately terminated her employment. Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.

The agency's suit seeks monetary relief from Tepanyaki, including back pay with prejudgment interest, and compensatory and punitive damages. EEOC also is seeking an injunction prohibiting future discrimination by Tepanyaki and any other relief necessary to prevent it from engaging in any further discriminatory practices.

"Terminating or refusing to hire someone due to her pregnancy is sex discrimination and is plainly and simply illegal," said Chester V. Bailey, director of the EEOC's Phoenix District Office, which also serves the state of Utah.

Mary Jo O'Neill, regional attorney at the EEOC's Phoenix District Office, added, "Tepanyaki took away Ms. Woodbury's means of helping to support her family when it found out she was expecting a child. This is another example of the alarming increase in the number of pregnancy charges that this agency has seen in recent years." In Fiscal Year 2008, EEOC and state/local agencies nationwide received a record high 6,285 pregnancy discrimination charge filings, up 12 percent from the prior year and 50 percent over the past decade. The pregnancy discrimination charge statistics are available on EEOC’s Web site att www.eeoc.gov/stats/pregnanc.html.

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