WI Insurance Firm Settles Pregnancy Discrimination Case

April 21, 2006 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A Wisconsin insurance company has agreed to a $65,000 settlement of charges that it fired a woman because she was pregnant.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that, according to the settlement announcement, Mt. Morris Mutual Insurance Co. has paid Clarissa Black Slife $55,000 for lost wages and benefits and attorney’s fees, and she was awarded an additional $10,000 as compensation for emotional distress that she says she suffered when she lost her job.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued Mt. Morris Mutual last fall, claiming the company dismissed Slife in 2002 after she raised concerns about pregnancy-related nausea and the temperature in the room where she worked (See Insurance Company Sued for Pregnancy Discrimination ).

According to findings in the companion state case against Mt. Morris Mutual as recited by the newspaper, Slife was a $9.10-an-hour employee working in the file room of the underwriting department, which was housed in a fireproof vault that was two to eight degrees warmer than the rest of the office. Slife began experiencing dizziness and nausea during the workday, which she believed was related to her pregnancy and made worse by the warm environment of the room.

After receiving a note from Slife’s nurse practitioner asking that Slife be allowed to work in a cooler part of the office, company President Howard Fenske and other managers talked about where to assign Slife. Fenske, who shared the opinion that Slife was not a hard worker, decided to lay her off rather than try to find a way to cool her work area or temporarily trade jobs with the receptionist.

John Hendrickson, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Chicago District Office, which has jurisdiction over Wisconsin, said in a news release: “Discrimination on the basis of pregnancy remains one of the most significant barriers to the success of women in the workplace. It is a priority issue of the EEOC. We are pleased that (Mt. Morris Mutual) has decided to put this case behind it and to reaffirm a commitment to equal employment opportunity for all workers.”