Professional Service Agreement

Employer to Pay $900K to Settle Claims of Salesperson Fired after High-risk Pregnancy

November 03, 2022

A former salesperson, who alleged she was fired between high-risk pregnancies due to discrimination, will be paid $900,000 by her former employer, brokerage firm Santander Investment Securities, to resolve the litigation, according to a proposed judgment filed in the case. The employee filed a lawsuit raising claims of discrimination based on sex, disability, and retaliation for requesting a reasonable accommodation, in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Title VII, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Partial summary judgment.In July 2022, although the employee failed to show her second high-risk pregnancy motivated, even in part, the decision to fire her, she established triable fact issues as to whether the company discriminated against her as a result of her first high-risk pregnancy by reducing bonuses, failing to return accounts to her, and planning for and implementing her termination. A federal court in New York thus denied in part the company’s motion for summary judgment as to her New York state and city law claims. Her FMLA retaliation claim also advanced.

Pregnancy discrimination.On her Title VII, NYSHRL, and NYCHRL pregnancy discrimination claims, the court found a fact question as to whether the employer discriminated against her as a result of her first pregnancy by reducing her bonuses below the amount she would have otherwise received, by failing to return some of her accounts to her when she returned from maternity leave, and by planning for and implementing her subsequent termination. Thus, these claims could advance to trial. However, the court dismissed her claims related to her second pregnancy, finding she could not show it motivated, even in part, the termination decision.

Retaliation.As to her NYSHRL and NYCHRL retaliation claims, the employee argued that she engaged in protected activity when she asked to work from home during her pregnancy and when she sent an email to her supervisor and the markets head on April 5 expressing concern about losing her accounts “as a result of my time off after having a baby.” While she presented no evidence as to what she said when requesting to work from home, the court agreed that the April 5 email was protected activity. Although she claimed she suffered four adverse actions after the April 5 email, only the permanent reallocation of her accounts was “sufficiently tethered” to the email. Although the employer presented a legitimate business reason for the allocations, there was sufficient evidence of pretext so as to preclude summary judgment.

FMLA claims.After finding a lack of evidence that the employer interfered with the employee’s FMLA rights, the court turned to her retaliation claim. Allowing this one to also proceed to trial, the court pointed to evidence that the employer retaliated against her 2019 workplace absences by permanently reallocating some of her accounts, reducing her 2019 bonus, and terminating her employment.