Court clears PCI Iron of EEOC claims tied to alleged treatment of pregnant worker

By Carrie Salls | Nov 30, 2018

SAN DIEGO – A federal court has ruled that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has not met its burden in a pregnancy discrimination suit against a fabricator and erector of structural steel and iron for construction projects.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California ruled in favor of employer PC Iron Inc. after the U.S. EEOC filed a complaint alleging that PCI had improperly fired a female worker because she was pregnant and/or had just given birth, according to a Nov. 20 opinion written by U.S. District Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo.

Bencivengo wrote the EEOC filed its lawsuit against PCI on Sept. 21, 2016, claiming that the company was in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when it allegedly terminated the employment of Elsa Perez “based on her pregnancy and/or recent childbirth.”

Specifically, Bencivengo said the EEOC was seeking damages for Perez, a well as a ruling requiring PCI to “correct unlawful employment practices on the basis of sex.”

Although Perez herself filed a claim of discrimination against PCI on Sept. 5, 2017, the court said she later agreed to the dismissal of that claim against the company. The EEOC’s lawsuit against PCI went to trial in late September.

Despite the EEOC’s allegation that Perez was fired because of her pregnancy and childbirth, Bencivengo agreed with the company’s argument that PCI and Perez agreed to let her “separate from her employment” so she could apply could unemployment and stay home and care for her baby.

According to the ruling, Perez was granted 10 weeks of maternity leave, with the agreement that she would return to work at PCI on Dec. 12, 2011.

Since it needed to hire a temporary worker to fill in for Perez while she was on maternity leave, the court said PCI contacted her when her return date grew closer to make sure she was planning to return to work as scheduled.

However, the ruling said Perez did not want to return to PCI, was looking for another job during her leave and skirted the company’s attempts to contact her. 

As a result, Perez and the company agreed to the separation option on Dec. 12, 2011.

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