Current Events

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Employers Fire Single Pregnant Women While Unwed Fathers Are Retained

Terminating a women because she is pregnant and not married is a common practice by some employers, and the practice is not limited to while collar positions, nor is it limited to those in lower paying jobs. Pregnant single women need to stand up to sex discrimination in the workplace. 

Two  employment discrimination cases brought by very different types of workers, one a high-powered corporate executive and the other, a blue-collar child care worker who found themselves out of a job when their employers found out they were pregnant, demonstrate that this double whammy discrimination by employers occurs in many types of employment positions. 

Leigh Castergine was in a prestigious, high level and high profile corporate executive position, a senior vice president for the New York Mets. This was quite different than the employment status of Jennifer Maudlin, employed as a cook at a child care facility in Ohio. 

Both women, who were single, were fired after they informed their employer that they were pregnant. Each of the women cited to harassment in their complaints and that their employers allegedly terminated them on moral grounds for being pregnant and unmarried, while the same employers retained male single workers who were known by them to have fathered out of wedlock children. Each of these women although worlds apart in status and income fought back and filed complaints of sex discrimination. Both cases were recently settled.

As reported in Newsday, the Mets and former team executive Leigh Castergine informed a federal judge in writing that they have settled her sexual discrimination lawsuit out of court.

         I. Pregnancy and sex discrimination against an unmarried high profile corporate executive.

Leigh Castergine, a senior executive vice president for the Mets, settled her pregnancy discrimination lawsuit against the Mets and the Mets' Chief Operating Officer.  Leigh Castergine had filed a federal lawsuit alleging  that the Chief Operating Officer, Jeff Wilpon, did not want a pregnant, unmarried woman to work there. In her lawsuit she alleged that a double standard existed as to how the organization treated unwed fathers and pregnant unwed women. 

Leigh Castergine had been a successful senior executive for the Mets. She was the former senior vice president for ticket sales for the Mets. In her federal lawsuit against Mr. Wilpon and the Mets, she alleged that her rise in the organization came to a screeching halt once Mr. Wilpon learned that she was pregnant. In her lawsuit, Leigh Castergine quoted Mr. Wilpon as characterizing her potential for future  further advancement as, "When she gets a ring, she'll make more money and get a bigger bonus."

After complaining about him and his unfair treatment to the Met's Human Resources Department, Leigh Castergine was fired.

ESPN reported upon the details of the alleged harassment:

“Leigh Castergine, who oversaw ticket sales for the Mets, was fired on Aug. 26, 2014, after nearly four years of employment. She alleged in a civil lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn that she was harassed by chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, and that her complaints to human resources went unheeded. Castergine claimed in the lawsuit that Wilpon fired her because he was "morally opposed" to her being pregnant and unmarried.....The original complaint alleged Wilpon "frequently humiliated Castergine in front of others by, among other things, pretending to see if she had an engagement ring on her finger and openly stating in a meeting of the team's all-male senior executives that he is 'morally opposed' to Castergine 'having this baby without being married.'"

Ms. Castergine was hired after the 2010 season, and it was reported that she had stated in her lawsuit that she had modernized Met’s ticket-selling operation. The Mets gave her raises of $50,000 in 2010 and 2012 and $125,000 in 2013.

As the senior vice president, she said, she “excelled” in the face of “extraordinary challenges,” most notably, the franchise’s failure to “field a winning team in six years, including 2014,” and “a series of public relations blunders.”

The Mets and Leigh Castergine settled as widely reported in the media.

When employers treat unmarried pregnant females differently than they treat single unwed men who have fathered children, the female workers should fight back through the courts. At a time when a single female most needs to retain her employment status- when she learns she is pregnant and will have more financial responsibilities- it is a doubly damaging her psychologically when the employer retains single male workers who have fathered out of wedlock children, yet terminates the single pregnant female. Chauvinism is perhaps too civilized a term to describe this despicable and illegal practice. 

The New York Times reported what occurred to Leigh Castergine after she became pregnant .“In the lawsuit, she said that the Mets had overpriced tickets in anticipation of the opening of Citi Field and of the need to modernize the team’s ticket-selling operation. But she listed episodes that occurred after she became pregnant in September 2013 that she said had made her uncomfortable, such as Wilpon’s telling her that “she should tell her boyfriend that when she gets a ring, she will make more money and get a bigger bonus....

After she announced her pregnancy, she said, Wilpon “became fixated on the idea that Castergine would have a child without being married.”

The Mets, Chief Operating Officer, Jeff Wilpon, and Castergine settled . The Mets announced this settlement in a press release, and offered a joint statement from both the Mets and Castergine.

The following joint statement was released:

“The parties have decided to resolve this matter, which has brought more attention to the workplace environment for women in sports and will result in the organization being more attentive to the important issues raised by women in sports,” the parties said in a joint statement. “Additionally, we are both committed to the further development and encouragement of female executives in our industry. Both sides have agreed to have no further comments.”

               II. Pregnancy and sex discrimination against an unmarried blue-collar child care worker.

Jennifer Maudlin, a single female, working at a childcare facility in Ohio, also was fired by her employer who had a practice of firing single pregnant workers while retaining single male workers for whom they had knowledge had fathered children borne out of wedlock. As in Castergine’s case against the New York Mets, plaintiff Jennifer Maudlin alleged harassment by her employer only after she became pregnant.

In a press release earlier this year, The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Ohio reported that Jennifer Maudlin, a single mother,  and her employer reached settlement in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of Jennifer Maudlin  who alleged she was fired from her employment position as a cook when she informed them that she was pregnant. According to Maudlin, her termination was under an unwritten employer policy against non-marital sex. In her complaint, she described a pattern of hostile treatment toward unmarried women who became pregnant. She alleged that male employees  who were single fathers or who were known to have engaged in non-marital sex were not subject to the same harsh treatment and termination by the employer. Part of the settlement reached by the employer and Jennifer Maudlin was that the employer had to institute changes to its employment policies that were non-discriminatory to its female staff. 

Both Leigh Castergine and Jennifer Maudlin  gave as the reason that they were terminated was that their employer had deemed them to be immoral because they were pregnant and single, too immoral to keep working at their place of employment.

Jennifer Maudlin alleged in paragraphs 18 and 19, of her complaint that while her employer terminates single workers if they become pregnant, they retain male workers who have children out of wedlock.

Jennifer Maudlin and Leigh Castergine, although worlds apart in their professional profiles, status and income, each had the courage to fight the discrimination against them through the courts. In doing so, in addition to rectifying the wrongs against them,  an outcome of their litigation was that their employers made changes in their employment practices which will benefit other single pregnant workers.

Leigh Castergine and Jennifer Maudlin - two heroines, one - a high-powered corporate executive and the other - a blue-collar worker, while vastly different in their employment status, were each uniquely brave in taking   a stand against illegal discrimination and standing up for their rights.

Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law, represents employees throughout New Jersey in complex employment discrimination lawsuits. She accepts cases from all counties in Northern, Southern, and Central New Jersey and has locations in central, western and northern New Jersey to meet with clients. If you believe that you have been discriminated against due to gender identity or other protected characteristic, such as age, disability, pregnancy, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or national origin, or in retaliation for reporting what you believed to be illegal acts of your employer,  she can help you. It is important to know your rights as an employee. 

Contact Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law, today for a free consultation. 

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