NEW ORLEANS -- The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is suing an apparel retail chain over allegations of discrimination against a pregnant employee.
EEOC filed a lawsuit against Rainbow USA Inc. at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana Sept. 27 on behalf of former employee Shenethiea Brazil, who was not allowed to work for the company after complications in her pregnancy.
As stated in the complaint, Brazil, who started working at Rainbow in 2008, "was in her first trimester of pregnancy" in April 2017 and the company "knew that Ms. Brazil was pregnant and was experiencing significant complications."
Still, during that month, per the complaint, Brazil "submitted a doctor’s note to Reginald Rachuba, Defendant’s store manager, which indicated medical restrictions and recommended accommodations, which were needed due to Ms. Brazil’s pregnancy."
Rachuba informed district manager Cindy Erwin of the note and the circumstances.
Also stated in the document, Erwin "informed Noel Garcia, who worked in Human Resources in Defendant’s corporate office, of the contents of the note and related circumstances," and Garcia also told "Amy Lopez, Defendant’s Human Resources Benefits Supervisor, of the contents of the note and related circumstances on or about May 3, 2017." Lopez told Erwin to go to the Chalmette store where Brazil worked and told her to suspend the employee.
Brazil was suspended indefinitely on May 3, 2017. She was informed that "she needed to have the restrictions related to her pregnancy lifted to remain employed, or she would be terminated immediately," the complaint said.
Erwin, per the complaint, "gave Ms. Brazil Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) paperwork and asked her to sign it," but Brazil did not sign. She said in the complaint that she "did not request to go on leave — and did not need to do so — and was perplexed as to why Defendant asked her to sign FMLA paperwork."
"Erwin did not inform Ms. Brazil if or when she could return to work," the complaint stated, adding that she was no longer allowed to report to work due to her pregnancy-related restrictions.
On May 5, 2017, Brazil received a letter, that stated:
"You have been out from your employment with Rainbow Apparel since 5/3/17 due to your leave of absence. FMLA has been denied because you have not worked the required 1,250 hours that entitles you to an FMLA leave. I am writing to advise you that upon your return, we cannot guarantee your position with this Company. Please be advised, that we will actively seek a permanent replacement for your position due to the needs of the business."
The same letter stated that “if you are unable to return before a replacement is found, the Company would be happy to consider your application for rehire," for which Brazil refused to do so. Her employment was terminated on the same day of the letter, being formalized on Aug. 3, 2017.
EEOC is seeking compensation for Brazil for the resulting losses, in addition to punitive damages and the institution of policies that prevent unlawful employment practices inside Rainbow Apparel. The commission also requested a jury trial.
The commission is represented by its counsels James Lee, Gwendolyn Reams, Rudy Sustaita, Gregory Juge, and Alexandra Navarre-Davis.
No judge has been assigned yet.
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana Case No. is 2:18-cv-09007-NJB-JCW.