Have I been discriminated against?

I am young, black, and pregnant and I believe I have just recently been fired because of all of the above. I recently was promoted to one of nineteen Supervisors, making me the youngest black female to hold such a position.

There was an overtime project where supervisors VOLUNTEERED to stay later than their scheduled hours to monitor the associates who worked overtime. It is the company's policy that salaried employees do not get paid for the overtime hours; you are offered comp time, meaning, I would be given hours based on the length of time worked to be used at my discretion (ie. Vacation, personal, etc.) During this project I found out I was pregnant and on one of these days I left early, as I was suffering symptoms of the pregnancy and was no longer able to effectively continue my shift.

Approximately 2 weeks later (one week after my supervisor found out I was pregnant) I was questioned to how long I stayed on one of the days I stayed late for the project. I answered that I did not know the exact time I left but that I did leave a little early. That answer unfortunately was not good enough and I was forced to give a time I left. Since I usually stayed the allotted time I advised that I would have stayed at least till 8pm or 8:30pm, since the project was until 8:30 pm. My supervisor and her assistant later called me into her office for a meeting. They accused me of not working my volunteer time and scheduled hours. They interrogated me, yelling that I was lying and I really went home. They said they had videotape of me leaving at 6:30p. When I asked to view the tape, neither the tape nor evidence of my leaving could be produced. I reminded my supervisor that I was approximately nine weeks pregnant and its possible that I could have left at 6:30 because I came down with the flu and due to the pregnancy could not take any medication. I told her to finish watching the tape and see if she saw me coming back into the building and if she didnt that was the day I was sick. I also advised her that I never took my comp time for that day so I was not infringing on any of GEICOs rules regarding comp time.

The following afternoon they fired me on the grounds that I volunteered to stay till 8:30 but left at 6:30.

Do I have grounds for discrimination? What type of proof do I need?

1 answer  |  asked Feb 6, 2002 12:32 PM [EST]  |  applies to New York

Answers (1)

David M. Lira
The Conjunction of Two Laws

You provide an interesting set of facts. You might have a pregnancy discrimination claim, but you might also have a Fair Labor Standards Act claim.

Actually, at this point, your pregnancy discrimination claim isn't all that strong. All you have is that you told them you were pregnant, and two weeks later you're having trouble. You may well have more information to bolster your claim, and, in a lawsuit, you might be able to get more proof to further bolster the claim. However, generally, just because you are pregnant (or black, or white, or etc.) and something bad happens to you does not necessarily mean you have been discriminated against. It might suggest you have been discriminated against, but it does not prove it.

By using your leaving early as the basis for firing you, your former employer may have created a mess for itself. They were treating the supervisors as "exempt" employees, that is, employees who are not entitled to overtime pay. But the rules on who is exempt really are fairly strict, and tend to favor the employee, unlike most areas of employment law.

One of the benefits of being an exempt employee is that you don't have to strictly account for your time. If you come in late or leave early, or take a break during the day, the employer needs to stay out of it, unless you are not fulfilling your responsibilities.

By penalizing you for leaving early, the employer might have turned your position, and the position of every supervisor, into non-exempt positions, meaning that all the supervisors may now be entitled to overtime compensation, possibly going as far back as three years. That can add up to a considerable amount of money.

If you want to pursue this, feel free to contact me.

posted by David M. Lira  |  Feb 7, 2002 09:04 AM [EST]

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