$550K Jury Award to Pregnant Employee Fired After Leaving Her Job for Prenatal Appointment

A Washington, D.C. restaurant’s firing of a pregnant employee who left work early to go to a prenatal doctor’s appointment left a bad taste in the jury’s mouth.

Yesterday’s $550,000 award against Chipotle Mexican Grill should send a strong message to other employers to abide by the law when it comes to the rights of pregnant employees.

The incident over the prenatal appointment was just the straw that broke the camel’s back in this case. The jury also heard testimony that the employee’s supervisor began restricting access to drinking water and forbidding routine breaks after the employee, Doris Garcia Hernandez, who worked at the Chipotle on M Street N.W., informed him that she was pregnant in November 2011.

She was fired thre months after, leaving leaving work early to a pre-natal doctor’s appointment.

According to Hernandez, the supervisor also harassed her by requiring her to tell each employee where she was going and then wait for permission to leave her post–with no such rules in place for nonpregnant employees. He also ignored her request days in advance for early leave to to go her appointments.

When he fired her, he did so in front of other employee’s in the store lobby. Prior to her pregnancy, Hernandez had received positive performance reviews for her work at the store.

Hernandez’s troubles had one salutary effect for other pregnant employees: It spurred the D.C. Council to pass the Protecting Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which requires employers to provide pregnant employees with basic accommodations, such as access to drinking water and more frequent bathroom breaks.

“No woman should be forced to choose between a prenatal appointment and her job,” said Jonathan Smith, executive director of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee.




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