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Monday, March 5, 2018

Justice Department Settles Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit Against the University of Baltimore

The Justice Department today announced it has entered into a settlement agreement with the University of Baltimore (University) to resolve allegations that the University discriminated against a female employee, based upon her pregnancy, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

According to the Department’s complaint, the University discriminated against former employee Sarah Dechowitz on the basis of her sex (pregnancy) by first firing her and then refusing to re-hire her for a similar position.  The complaint alleged that shortly after she informed management that she was pregnant, a high-level University official involved in the decisions about Ms. Dechowitz’s employment made comments indicating that her pregnancy was a motivating factor in the University’s decision to terminate her employment by eliminating her position.  Approximately one week after the University notified Ms. Dechowitz that her position was being eliminated, the University advertised for a similar, newly created position.  According to the complaint, the University’s decision not to re-hire Ms. Dechowitz for the similar position was because of or motivated by her pregnancy.  

“The Justice Department is committed to fighting pregnancy discrimination under Title VII,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore for the Civil Rights Division. “I am pleased with the University of Baltimore’s cooperation in ensuring its compliance with the law.” 

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the University has agreed to pay $115,000 in back pay and compensatory damages to Ms. Dechowitz. In addition, the University has agreed to review and revise, if necessary, its anti-discrimination policies and procedures to ensure that it protects its employees from discrimination on the basis of sex, including pregnancy, and unlawful retaliation.  The University also agreed to provide training to both new and current employees on its anti-discrimination policies and procedures. 

Ms. Dechowitz initially filed a charge of sex discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Baltimore, Maryland Field Office, which investigated the matter, determined there was reasonable cause to believe discrimination had occurred, and referred the matter to the Justice Department.

Title VII is a federal statute that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex (including pregnancy), race, color, national origin and religion.  Title VII also prohibits retaliation against an employee who opposes an unlawful employment practice, makes a charge of discrimination or participates in an investigation, proceeding or hearing under the Civil Rights Act.

The United States is represented in this case by Civil Rights Division attorney Richard Sexton.

Additional information about Title VII and other federal employment laws is available on the website of the Employment Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division at http://www.justice.gov/crt/ and https://www.justice.gov/crt/employment-litigation-section

Press Release Number: 
Updated March 5, 2018