The Chicago Employment Law Blog

Lawsuit: Bartender Was Fired for Being Pregnant

A former bartender at a Tinley Park restaurant has filed a federal lawsuit against the owner of the restaurant, claiming that she was fired when her pregnancy became apparent, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

According to the suit, the owner of the Charley Horse Restaurant terminated Heidi Spontak after infering from Spontak’s appearance that she was pregnant. Spontak later filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In May 2011, Spontak reportedly told her manager and fellow employees that she was pregnant. However, they advised her not to tell the owners about her pregnancy or they would fire her, according to the suit.

Spontak claims that one of the bar’s owners, Maria Sord, commented that Spontak looked pregnant, while Spontak was bartending in late July. Soon after, the bar’s manager told Spontak, “They know about your pregnancy,” and terminated her employment. Spontak claims that the termination was in no way due to her performance, and that she was discriminated against because of her pregnancy.

There are numerous federal laws protecting pregnant women from discrimination. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 prohibits employers from discriminating based on pregnancy in all aspects of employment including, hiring, firing, and promotions. However, the Act only applies to employers with 15 or more employees. If the Charley Horse Restaurant has at least 15 employees and Spontak’s allegations are accurate, she likely has a viable federal claim for violations of the act.

Heidi Spontak is seeking damages for back pay, attorney’s fees, lost benefits, compensation for emotional distress, and punitive damages of $200,000 for her termination from the Charley Horse Restaurant.

Related Resources: