Human Rights

Dollar General settles pregnancy discrimination lawsuit

Dollar General, a well-known discount retailer, has settled a lawsuit with a former employee after allegedly firing the woman because she was pregnant.

In the suit, the U.S. Equal Employment Oppor­tunity Commission (EEOC) alleges that Calleigh Rutledge was fired “immediately” upon telling her manager that she was pregnant in September 2020. At the time, she hadn’t asked for any pregnancy-related time off or suggested that she couldn’t perform her duties as a result of her pregnancy. Nevertheless, she was let go “due to her pregnancy.”

According to the EEOC, the store’s manager later called Rutledge and apologized for firing her while asking her if she could return for “light duty.” Despite this, she “was never again placed on the schedule” and later received a separation notice that noted she had been let go due to “health reasons.”

Dollar General initially refused to acknowledge that Rutledge’s pregnancy was the reason she was fired. “Dollar General asserts that there is no causal connection between Ms. Rutledge’s sex or alleged pregnancy, and any adverse employment action allegedly suffered by Ms. Rutledge,” it wrote.

READ: Two studies find significant impact of workplace pregnancy discrimination on moms and babies

As part of the settlement, Dollar General agreed to pay Rutledge $42,500 in damages, including $12,750 in back pay damages and $29,750 in compensatory damages. Additionally, it has been ordered to revise its anti-discrimination policies, provide annual training to its managers, and allow the EEOC to monitor complaints of discrimin­ation.

“We hope this case conveys the seriousness of pregnancy discrimination allegations to employers,” said Marcus G. Keegan, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office. “The Commission will continue to seek policy changes, training, and reporting in cases like this to protect employees and applicants from facing pregnancy discrimination in the future.”

Data shows that thousands of pregnant women experience discrimination in the workplace each year. According to studies shared by Harvard Business Review,  “discrimination can have real consequences for a pregnant employee’s career outcomes, including reduced salary, promotions, and social capital.”

Darrell Graham, district director of the EEOC’s Atlanta office, reiterated that pregnant women need workplace protections. “Pregnancy is no reason for an employer to assume an employee cannot work, and employers should be prevented from perpetuating this harmful patriarchal stereotype,” he said.

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