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Pet waste removal company settles pregnancy bias claim in Rockville

The old Woodward & Lothrop Service Warehouse in Washington houses the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Headquarters and Washington Field Office (WFO). (Wikimedia Commons / AgnosticPreachersKid / “Woodward_and_Lothrop_Service_Warehouse” / CC BY-SA 3.0 / cropped and resized)

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission headquarters in Washington. (Wikimedia Commons / AgnosticPreachersKid /)

A pet waste removal company will pay a former employee $40,000 in settlement of a federal lawsuit alleging it fired the woman from its Rockville facility because she was pregnant.

DoodyCalls Inc. admitted no wrongdoing in agreeing to settle with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which filed the suit last year in federal district court in Greenbelt on behalf of Amanda Peal.

EEOC alleged that the Charlottesville, Virginia-based company violated the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act by firing Peal after concluding she was not up to the task of cleaning up after the company’s clients’ pets due to her pregnancy.

“Employers must remember that federal law prohibits employment discrimination not only because of pregnancy and childbirth, but also any medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth,” Jamie R. Williamson, director of EEOC’s Philadelphia district office, said in a statement Monday announcing the settlement. “Workers with pregnancy-related medical conditions or ADA disabilities related to pregnancy must be treated in accordance with their rights under the law – not myths, fears, or stereotypes.”

Jacob D’Aniello, DoodyCalls’ president, said Tuesday that “we never have and never will discriminate against any team member.”

“There’s a lot going on in the world right now,” he added. “We settled the case just so we could put it behind us.”

According to EEOC’s complaint, Peal told DoodyCalls’ management she was four months pregnant when the company hired her in February 2019 to visit residential and commercial sites to dispose of pet waste.

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.

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.

When Peal returned to work, her manager expressed concern about her ability to perform the job and the company’s liability, according to the complaint. The manager allegedly told Peal 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.

DoodyCalls stated in the agreement that it has “revised” its non-discrimination policy “to clearly and affirmatively state that (it) does not discriminate on the basis of sex, pregnancy, or disability.” The agreement calls for the policy to be distributed to all employees and be posted in each of its facilities.

The agreement, filed in the district court, states that all DoodyCalls officers, human resources personnel and managers have participated in a two-hour training session on federal laws prohibiting bias based on sex, pregnancy or disability. All new managers will undergo similar training, according to the agreement.

For the next three years, DoodyCalls agreed to submit annual reports to EEOC regarding the company’s compliance with the notice and training requirements and providing a summary of any complaints alleging pregnancy or disability discrimination and what the company did in response to them

“Pregnancy discrimination continues to be a persistent problem in the American workforce and the EEOC will continue working to prevent and remedy such discrimination,” Debra M. Lawrence, EEOC’s regional attorney, said in a statement Monday. “We commend DoodyCalls for voluntarily agreeing to a settlement that compensates the technician and protects other employees from discrimination based on pregnancy or disability.”

The case was docketed at U.S. District Court in Greenbelt as Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. DoodyCalls Inc., 8:19-cv-02757-PJM.

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