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Pet food company settles EEOC pregnancy discrimination suit for $30,000


A pet food manufacturer that fired a lab technician an hour after learning she was pregnant, citing safety concerns for both mother and baby, has agreed to settle a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission pregnancy discrimination case for $30,000.

Alegandra Villanueba worked as a lab technician in a Springdale, Arkansas, facility operated by Frontenac, Kansas-based Triple T Foods Inc., according to the EEOC. The facility processes meat byproducts used in pet food at the facility, according to the EEOC complaint in the case.

Ms. Villanueba’s job duties involved checking the meat for water content, the work area for cleanliness, the temperature controls, the outside trailers, fire extinguishers and fly traps. She also prepared and maintained quality control reports and reported any quality control problems to her team leader, according the complaint. As part of her duties, she worked around or with raw meat.

On Sept. 22, 2012, Ms. Villanueba informed her employer she was pregnant, and about an hour later the company told her it was necessary to lay her off for the safety of both her and her baby.

The company alleged Ms. Villanueba’s doctor had restricted her from working around raw meet because of a weakened immune system. There was no such restriction, however, according to the complaint, which was filed by the EEOC in U.S. District Court in Fayetteville, Arkansas, in September 2013 and charges the company with violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title 1 of the Civil Rights Act of 1991.

Under terms of the settlement, which was approved by the court on July 21, Ms. Villanueba will receive $15,000 back pay and $15,000 in interest and damages.

“We continue to see more complaints of pregnancy discrimination throughout our district,” Faye A. Williams, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Memphis District Office, said Monday in a statement. “We are pleased Triple T has hired a human resources specialist to prevent pregnancy discrimination from occurring there in the future.”

The company had no comment.

Earlier this month the EEOC issued updated guidance for pregnancy discrimination, which has generated controversy as legal experts debate the scope and timing of the new rules.

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