Dallas Dental Practice Fined for Pregnancy Discrimination

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Smiley Dental Walnut of Garland, Texas, will pay $20,000 and provide other relief to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit brought by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

According to the EEOC, Smiley Dental Walnut hired a new front desk receptionist in May 2017. When she disclosed her pregnancy to the practice’s human resources about a month later, she was told that she needed to inform her supervisor.

When the receptionist told her supervisor about her pregnancy, the supervisor became upset and stated that she would no longer train the new employee because she was going to be absent after giving birth, the EEOC said. The supervisor then fired the receptionist during this conversation.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the EEOC said, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in the workplace, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

The EEOC filed suit in US District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division, Case No 3:18-CV-02552, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement. The EEOC sought back pay and other damages, as well as injunctive relief, including an order barring similar violations in the future. 

The two-year consent decree settling the suit entered by US District Judge Karen Gren Scholer on October 16, 2019, prohibits future discrimination and retaliation. In addition to the monetary relief, it requires the employer to provide annual training about pregnancy discrimination and other forms of discrimination.

Also, the decree imposes discipline up to termination of any manager who discriminates based on pregnancy or permits such conduct to occur under his or her supervision. It further requires Smiley Dental Walnut to distribute and post a notice about discrimination based on sex and set forth procedures for reporting discrimination.

“It is important that employers understand that they cannot fire a woman at any stage of her employment simply because she is pregnant and will need maternity leave,” said Meaghan Kuelbs, senior trial attorney in the EEOC’s Dallas District Office.

“Even a new employee should feel comfortable telling her employer that she is pregnant without fear that such a disclosure will cause her to be fired,” said Kuelbs.

“Education of employers to move past traditional assumptions about a pregnant employee’s perceived lack of value or productivity is key to preventing situations in which expectant mothers unfairly lose income at a time they may need it most,” said EEOC regional attorney Robert Canino.

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