Sunday, January 1, 2017
Federal Agency Says Worker was Twice Sued by Former Employer in Retaliation for Her Opposing Discrimination and Filing an EEOC Charge
HOUSTON – Carolina Creek Christian Camp, Inc. (CCCC), which operates a facility 90 miles northeast of Houston that is used for youth summer camps and retreats, demoted a worker because of her pregnancy and related medical issues, and then fired her and sued her twice after she stood up for her rights, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to EEOC’s suit, around February 2014, within a week of learning that Registrar Korrie Reed had developed gestational diabetes during her pregnancy, CCCC involuntarily removed her from her position “predominately because of” her “medical condition,” as stated in writing by CCCC. CCCC reasoned that the demotion was triggered by “her need to medically take care of herself and the baby.”
When Ms. Reed returned from maternity leave, she was moved to a different department, and placed in another subordinate position. On several occasions, Ms. Reed expressed to the CCCC Executive Director that she viewed her demotion from Registrar to be illegal and discriminatory. After she expressed this sentiment again in early January 2015, CCCC on January 9, 2015, fired Reed.
After Reed filed an EEOC charge of discrimination in January 2015 and hired an attorney, CCCC sued Reed on February 3, 2015. After the proceedings in that lawsuit were paused, CCCC sued Reed again in Summer 2015. EEOC contends that the lawsuits filed against Reed, and her firing, unlawfully retaliated against Reed for exercising her rights protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on sex (including pregnancy), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities.
EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division (Civil Action No. 4:16-cv-03714), after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The federal agency is seeking a permanent injunction prohibiting CCCC from engaging in sex discrimination, disability discrimination, and retaliation. The EEOC is also seeking back pay on behalf of Ms. Reed, and compensatory and punitive damages and other relief on her behalf, including re-instatement to her position at CCCC.
“As in this case, when a worker is pregnant or has a medical condition that the employer views as a disability, but the employee is qualified to continue performing the job, an employer’s unfounded fears and biases are not valid excuses to deny equal employment opportunities,” said EEOC’s Houston District Director Rayford O. Irvin.
EEOC’s Houston Regional Attorney Rudy Sustaita said, “This lawsuit will send a message to employers that the EEOC will vigorously enforce federal law. We will prosecute companies which deny equal opportunity, and which sue employees — with no basis — to punish them for standing up for their rights.”
The Houston District Office of EEOC oversees parts of East Texas and Southeast Texas and Louisiana.