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EEOC alleges woman was fired due to high-risk pregnancy

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed suit Wednesday alleging a pet waste removal company discriminated against a woman due to her high-risk pregnancy.

Charlottesville, Virginia-based DoodyCalls Inc. hired Amanda Peal earlier this year to work as a pet waste technician at its Rockville facility, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt. The job involved visiting residential and commercial sites to dispose of pet waste.

Peal, who was four months pregnant at the time, disclosed the pregnancy after she was hired, according to the complaint. A few weeks later, she underwent emergency surgery to prevent miscarriage or stillbirth and was allowed to return fully to work after one week, but her pregnancy was labeled high-risk and she was instructed to avoid doing anything too strenuous.

When Peal returned to work, her manager expressed concern about her ability to perform the job and about the company’s liability, according to the complaint. The manager allegedly told Peal that it was not the right time for her to be on the job and that she should ask to be rehired after her pregnancy. Peal did not return to work.

Peal’s doctor instructed her not to lift more than 20 pounds and to take brief breaks after walking for six hours, according to the complaint, which added that the pet waste technician position did not require heavy lifting or hours of walking.

“The decision of whether a pregnant woman can work should be reserved for the individual woman to make for herself, not the employer,” Jamie R. Williamson, director of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office, said in a statement.

DoodyCalls President Jacob D’Aniello said the company was aware of the EEOC initial complaint but did not know the lawsuit had been filed.

“We did nothing wrong,” D’Aniello said. “I’m actually surprised this lawsuit is being filed.”

According to the lawsuit, DoodyCalls declined to participate in the EEOC conciliation process in August.

The lawsuit alleges that the company engaged in unlawful employment practices by terminating Peal due to her disability and to concerns about accommodation, according to the complaint. The EEOC is seeking a permanent injunction preventing the company from engaging in discrimination based on sex, including discrimination based on pregnancy and discrimination based on disability. The lawsuit also seeks back pay and damages for emotional pain and mental anguish.

“Federal law is clear — an employer may not fire a pregnant woman based on the employer’s supposed concerns about the safety of the mother or unborn child,” EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence said in a statement. “A pregnant woman who can do the job, as was the case here, has the right to continue to earn a living.”

The case is Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. DoodyCalls Inc., 8:19-cv-02757.

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