POSTED: 8:59 a.m. HST, Dec 11, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 1:25 p.m. HST, Dec 11, 2013
A female retail buyer was awarded a $60,000 discrimination settlement because a Hawaii resort retailer made offensive comments about her intentions to undergo fertility treatments and fired her three years ago, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The EEOC simultaneously filed and resolved its pregnancy and disability discrimination suit earlier this month against Step Three in a settlement that includes widespread changes to company policy and procedures.
Step Three Ltd. sells shoes, bags and accessories at resort-based retail locations throughout the islands. There was no immediate comment from the retailer.
Amrita Mallik, EEOC attorney, said Deepa Sheehan was a shoe buyer for Step Three, the retailer that operates the Sandal Tree store, for about a year when she began fertility treatments.
According to the EEOC's suit, Sheehan informed the company that she began the treatments in 2011. Upon disclosure of her disability, a company official allegedly made offensive comments about her intentions and became even less receptive upon disclosure of her pregnancy later that same year.
Sheehan was disciplined after disclosing her need for fertility treatments, and then discharged when she disclosed her travel restrictions due to her pregnancy.
Mallik said Sheehan was fired because she couldn't go on a buying trip when she became pregnant.
The two-year consent decree requires Step Three to pay $60,000 to the victim and provide her with a neutral reference. Step Three also agreed to hire a consultant to ensure compliance; revise the company's anti-discrimination policies and procedures; provide annual training for staff; and hold supervisory staff accountable for engaging in or failing to address discrimination, harassment or retaliation on the job.
"Pregnancy discrimination remains a problem that forces qualified women out of the workplace," said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC's Los Angeles District, whose jurisdiction includes Hawaii. "We commend Step Three for working closely with the EEOC toward the early resolution of this case and the equal treatment for employees who are pregnant or disabled."
Timothy Riera, director of the EEOC's Honolulu Local Office, added, "Federal law protects workers who are discriminated against due to their infertility, a covered disability. Workers who undergo fertility treatments should be treated like any other employee with a disability - with equal and careful consideration of reasonable accommodation requests."