Chaminade settles pregnancy-bias lawsuit
The university allegedly withdrew a job offer after learning the applicant was pregnant
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Chaminade University has agreed to pay $50,000 to settle a pregnancy bias suit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Chie McCaughey applied for a position at Chaminade in February 2004, and alleges that the job offer was withdrawn a day after the employer found out she was pregnant.
Chaminade University admitted no wrongdoing, but in addition to paying McCaughey will hold workshops on basic discrimination and harassment issues.
Chaminade said it is the only pregnancy discrimination suit ever filed against the university.
The number of pregnancy bias cases filed with the U.S. EEOC, meanwhile, is growing.
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Chaminade University has agreed to pay $50,000 to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
In the suit, filed March 2006 in U.S. District Court, the agency alleged that Chaminade withdrew a job offer to Chie McCaughey a day after she revealed that she was pregnant. EEOC filed the suit after failing to reach a voluntary settlement.
Attorneys say the amount covers compensation for lost wages and emotional distress due to not obtaining the employment she was seeking.
The check must be made out directly to McCaughey under the terms of the settlement, which was approved on Tuesday.
Chaminade says it is the only pregnancy discrimination suit ever filed against the university.
The university said in a statement that it admits no wrongdoing, but will hold workshops on basic discrimination and harassment issues for all of its employees in the next 90 days.
An additional workshop will also be held for those who are involved with hiring.
"We have always been proponents of fairness in our hiring practices," said Frank Damm, executive assistant to the university's president. "This additional training will be an opportunity to enhance our efforts in educating our staff and faculty and increasing their understanding on EEOC policies and procedures."
The private, Catholic-affiliated university, founded in 1955, is a four-year, fully accredited liberal arts school with a student body of about 2,800 and main campus in Kaimuki.
McCaughey had applied for a position as an off-campus program coordinator for Chaminade, in which she would have worked at the Hickam Air Force base.
At the time she interviewed for the job in February 2004, McCaughey was about five months pregnant, and expecting to give birth in June.
McCaughey, who graduated from Chaminade with a bachelor's in international studies in 1992, also held a master's in education from the University of Washington in Seattle.
The EEOC said losing the job opportunity was significant for McCaughey at the time, because she had hoped to be working while her husband was then doing a tour in Iraq for the U.S. Army.
McCaughey, whose son is now three years old, said in a statement that she was happy to put this behind her.
"I never expected my initial complaint with the EEOC to go this far," she said. "I appreciate what they did and encourage anyone who feels strongly about having been discriminated against to come forward. I hope this turns out to be a positive learning experience for Chaminade University so that they and other employers do not discriminate against pregnant women."
Pregnancy bias cases are on the rise nationwide, according to Timothy Riera, the Honolulu director for the EEOC.
Another pregnancy discrimination suit is pending against Kaiser Permanente on Maui.
"Pregnancy discrimination, surprisingly in 2007, is still a problem," said Riera. "I still think that employers hold the stereotypical notion that women will not be as committed to their jobs after pregnancy."
The number of pregnancy bias cases filed with the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission, grew from 23 in fiscal year 2005 to 30 in 2006.
A total of 23 cases have been filed so far this fiscal year, which ends on June 30, making up about 42 percent of sex discrimination-related complaints and 9 percent of all employment complaints.
Pregnancy discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The number of pregnancy bias charges received by the EEOC grew by nearly 45 percent between fiscal year 1992 and 2006 to 4,901, according to EEOC San Francisco district director Joan Ehrlich.
"We are stepping up our efforts of outreach and education on one hand, and enforcement and litigation on the other, to prevent this trend from continuing," said Ehrlich. "I highly recommend that employers take a good look at our new guidance on workers with caregiving responsibilities -- it is a must-read."