Party City will shell out $39,000 to settle a pregnancy and disability discrimination case.
Party City Corporation recently agreed to settle a pregnancy and disability lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The suit was filed earlier this year on behalf of Jahneiss Groce, and the settlement will provide $39,000 in lost wages, damages, and other relief after she was terminated for her pregnancy and pregnancy-related medical condition.
According to the lawsuit, Groce was working as at Party City when she fell pregnant. However, during her pregnancy, she developed a pregnancy-related medical condition and sought medical care. As a result, she went to her management team and asked for a reasonable accommodation due to her condition. From there, her store’s management “conveyed the request to Party City’s human resources department,” though after “obtaining additional medical information, Party City denied Groce’s request and terminated her employment on Feb. 1, 2016.”
After investigating the matter, the EEOC determined she was terminated less than one year after being hired because she was pregnant and had a disability. As a result, the agency argued the retailer’s actions not only violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 but also the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Prior to filing the suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, the agency tried to reach a pre-litigation settlement via its conciliation process. However, Party City denied the allegations and the EEOC filed their lawsuit.
As part of the settlement, the parties involved agreed to enter into a three-year that was approved and signed by U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein, Jr. on July 12, 2019. Additionally, on top of the monetary award included in the settlement, Groce will receive “significant non-monetary relief, including an injunction prohibiting any future discrimination on the basis of pregnancy or disability.” Party City must also “develop training about its policies and the PDA’s and ADA’s requirements.”
In a statement regarding the matter, Regional Attorney Rudy Sustaita of the EEOC’s Houston District Office said:
“The law requires companies to gather all relevant facts necessary to conduct an individualized assessment of a disabled employee’s ability to perform the essential functions of her job. The EEOC will vindicate the rights of pregnant employees who are discriminated against.”
Lloyd Van Oostenrijk also chimed in and said, “this settlement is the best avenue to address the concerns raised by the EEOC and Ms. Groce’s complaint.” Oostenrijk is a trial attorney for the Houston District Office.