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A federal judge ordered HCS Medical Staffing, a Milwaukee healthcare staffing firm, to pay $148,000 to settle a pregnancy discrimination case, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported Friday.
The lawsuit alleged HCS owner Charles Sisson discriminated against Roxy Leger, the company’s bookkeeper, when he made offensive comments about her pregnancy and fired her because she needed to take maternity leave following the birth of her son, according to the EEOC.
The court entered a default judgment against HCS on Feb. 17 after the company failed to respond to a court order to retain an attorney, according to the EEOC. The court ordered HCS to pay Roxy Leger back pay plus pre-judgment interest in the sum of $48,340, compensatory damages in the sum of $50,000 and punitive damages amounting to $50,000 for a total of $148,340.
Judge J.P. Stadtmueller found that HCS’ owner referred to Leger’s pregnancy as a joke; insisted that maternity leave should last no more than a couple of days; suggested that Leger’s pre-natal appointments were a ruse for additional time off or for money; and gave Leger an offensive diagram of a machine which would allow Leger to return from her maternity leave sooner, according to the EEOC. HCS terminated Leger’s employment and health insurance while she was still in the hospital recovering from a Caesarean section, the EEOC reported. Leger learned of her termination days later by certified mail.
“The conduct at issue in this case was deplorable,” said EEOC Regional Attorney John Hendrickson. “Pregnancy discrimination is sex discrimination. It is flatly prohibited by law. Working to stop it remains a high priority for the EEOC.”