Lawsuit accuses AT&T Mobility of pregnancy discrimination

NEW YORK (AP) — Represented by high-powered lawyers, two women filed a federal court lawsuit today accusing AT&T's mobile phone subsidiary of firing them for pregnancy-related absences in violation of federal anti-discrimination laws.

The women allege that AT&T Mobility's attendance policy, which assigns point-based demerits for late arrivals, early departures and absences, discriminates against pregnant women. According to the class-action lawsuit, both women were fired after accruing points for missing work because of pregnancy-related medical care, and, in one plaintiff's case, her infant son's emergency medical needs as well.

The plaintiffs, Katia Hills and Cynthia Allen, filed their claim on behalf of all female non-managerial employees in AT&T Mobility's retail stores nationwide, and seek redress for all of these employees whose rights have allegedly been violated.

AT&T spokesman Marty Richter said the company was reviewing the complaint, adding, "We do not tolerate discrimination of any kind, including for an employee's gender or pregnancy."

The attorneys handling the lawsuit — from the American Civil Liberties Union and the law firm Cohen Milstein – said it could have national implications for the legal boundaries of attendance policies like the one used by AT&T Mobility.

Known as "no-fault" policies, they have become popular among some large employers as a way to decide which of their lower-echelon workers has an attendance problem. Under the policies, employees are assessed demerits for various unauthorized attendance lapses, regardless of the reason for the infraction, and those who exceed certain numbers of demerits face discipline.

"They treat employees like cogs, but employees aren't cogs" said attorney Gillian Thomas of the ACLU's Women's Rights Project. "They're human. They get pregnant, they get sick, they have families that need to be taken care of."

According to the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Hills worked at an AT&T Mobility store in Elkhart, Indiana, from April 2014 until July 2015. She became pregnant in October 2014, and ensuing nausea and other symptoms sometimes caused her to be late or miss work.

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