Company to pay $70K after revoking pregnant woman’s job offer

A consulting company contracted by the federal government to overhaul ships at a naval station in Florida extended a job offer to a woman only to revoke it after discovering she was pregnant, according to federal officials.

Now the company must pay her $70,000.

DLS Engineering Associates, an engineering consulting firm based in Virginia, agreed to the payment after federal officials accused the company in a civil lawsuit of discriminating against the applicant based on her pregnancy.

The suit was filed in December by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency tasked with safeguarding and enforcing anti-discrimination laws in the workplace. A judge approved the settlement on Monday, April 25.

“A woman should not have to fear that disclosing her pregnancy will cost her a job opportunity,” Roberto Chavez, acting director of the EEOC’s Miami office, said in a statement. “Targeted EEO training will help ensure that future pregnant applicants will be fairly considered.”

Company representatives and a lawyer for DLS Engineering did not immediately respond to McClatchy News’ request for comment on April 26.

According to the EEOC’s complaint filed in the Middle District of Florida, DLS Engineering was hiring an engineering logistics analyst in 2020 as part of a contract to help overhaul and modernize U.S. Navy ships at the Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, Florida.

One of the candidates was a woman who had served in the Navy, the EEOC said, and she was granted an interview with the vice president. He then offered her the job on Dec. 11, 2020, according to the lawsuit.

The woman reportedly accepted the job offer that same day. Officials said the vice president began arranging to send her a company laptop and asked her to buy a hard hat and boots that would be reimbursed.

A little over two weeks later, the woman informed the vice president that she was five months pregnant, the EEOC said.

The two then had a phone conversation in which the woman “gave no indication that she would be unable to complete any requirement of the position as a result of her pregnancy,” the lawsuit states. She reportedly did not mention taking maternity leave and assured the vice president she could still lift up to 25 pounds as needed.

He rescinded the job offer the following day, officials said.

“As reason for rescinding the offer (the vice president) explained they could not hire someone who was pregnant, citing that time off needed for pregnancy and maternity leave would not be feasible with the current project schedule, that the work environment was too hazardous, and that the physical requirements of the job could not be met,” the EEOC said in the complaint.

The woman filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC shortly thereafter, and the agency determined there was reasonable cause to believe DLS Engineering had discriminated against her.

An attempt to reconcile the allegations out of court failed, and the EEOC filed suit on Dec. 9.

As part of the settlement agreement, DLS Engineering has agreed to update its anti-discrimination policies, conduct training on pregnancy discrimination, and provide updates to the EEOC.

The company has denied any wrongoing, and the consent decree is not an admission of liability.

Hayley Fowler is a reporter at The Charlotte Observer covering breaking and real-time news across North and South Carolina. She has a journalism degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and previously worked as a legal reporter in New York City before joining the Observer in 2019.

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