The Employer's Legal Resource: Court Overrules Motion to Dismiss On Basis Plaintiff Sufficient Pled Factual Allegations in Pregnancy Discrimination Case
In Gillespie v. Patterson Dental Supply Inc., an Oklahoma court denied an employer's motion to dismiss a pregnancy discrimination claim from a former employee. A motion to dismiss is filed right after the lawsuit is filed and allows the court to decide if it is sufficient to warrant proceeding.
In her lawsuit, Ms. Gillespie alleged a series of discriminatory actions taken against her by her male supervisor, which included:
the supervisor sent her text messages and emails regarding non-urgent business while he knew she was out of town for a funeral,
refused to return Ms. Gillespie's phone calls while he was communicating with other co-workers during the same time period,
refused to discuss issues she was having regarding commission checks she was being short-changed on, and
firing her based on a miscommunication over a missed meeting the supervisor wanted her to attend despite a previous work trip she had scheduled with a vendor representative.
All of the above-listed acts occurred after Ms. Gillespie announced to her co-workers that she was pregnant. At this stage, she believes the co-workers, in turn, told her supervisor.
In overruling Patterson's motion to dismiss, the court noted it must look to the elements of the cause of action and determine if the plaintiff set forth factual allegations to state a claim. Ms. Gillespie's lawsuit set forth 53 paragraphs of facts. The facts were sufficient to show that she was pregnant, that she performed satisfactory work, and that she was terminated from her employment with Defendant - the elements of a pregnancy discrimination claim. Ms. Gillespie set forth facts regarding conflicts with specific people at her employer; approximately when and how she believed the employer learned that she was pregnant, and why she believed there is a casual connection between her pregnancy and termination. The court also noted that while the factual allegations should correspond with the elements of the claim, the petition need not establish a prima facie case for purposes of overcoming a motion to dismiss.
Remember, adverse employment actions taken against an employee after she announces her pregnancy may be scrutinized. Use good judgment, fair and consistent treatment, and common sense.
By James R. Bullard, firstname.lastname@example.org