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Bias, retaliation charges reinstated against medical firm

Organogenesis bias

A federal appeals court has reinstated discrimination and retaliation charges filed by three former employees of a medical firm who were reportedly asked by a supervisor about any planned pregnancies and who also made racist and sexist comments.

Angela Gonzales, Linda Boyd and Brandee Colombo, former tissue regeneration specialists at Canton, Massachusetts-based Organogenesis Inc., charged they were mistreated by a male supervisor who allegedly made discriminatory age, gender, African-American and Latino comments, according to the complaint in Angela Gonzales, Linda Boyd and Brandee Colombo v. Organogenesis.

The supervisor also began demanding from the plaintiffs information about past and any future planned pregnancies and said he needed to terminate female employees before they had additional babies. He placed them on performance improvement plans.

When Ms. Gonzales complained, she was later told by the company’s CEO and another company officer that her complaints “were unwelcome and that if she continued to press them there would be negative consequences,” according to the complaint.

Ms. Boyd and Colombo were laid off in December 2013 and Ms. Gonzales was terminated a few days later, according to the complaint.

They filed suit in U.S. District Court in Pasadena on charges including gender discrimination and retaliation under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.

The district court granted Organogenesis summary judgment dismissing the case, which a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco unanimously reinstated in Monday’s ruling.

“The district court incorrectly concluded that Gonzales did not demonstrate a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether Organogenesis’s proffered reason for her termination was pretextual,” said the ruling.

“Just four months before her termination Gonzales lodged a complaint to Human Resources” about her supervisor, and “presented sufficient evidence he caused her termination,” said the ruling.

The lower court also incorrectly concluded the three plaintiffs could not make out a prima facie case of gender discrimination, the ruling said. 

“At the same time (the supervisor) placed each woman on a performance improvement plan and objective setting plan, he repeatedly questioned each of them about whether they were planning to have a baby and directly told Gonzales that he needed to fire a female salesperson before she became pregnant,” said the ruling, in reversing the lower court’s decision and remanding the case for further proceedings.

Organogenesis attorney E. Joseph Connaughton III, a partner with Paul,  Plevin, Sullivan & Connaughton LLP in San Diego, said in a statement, “Organogenesis is analyzing the court’s ruling and looks forward to a successful result, either upon further appeal or upon proceeding below.”

The plaintiffs’ attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.







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