A former legal secretary at Latham & Watkins can move ahead with part of her pregnancy discrimination suit against the firm, a Washington federal district judge ruled yesterday.
Demetria Peart, who worked at Latham from April 2007 until January 2008, claimed she was fired because the firm didn't want to accommodate her pregnancy. The firm asked U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer to dismiss the case, arguing, among other things, that Peart failed to meet the minimum legal standards to support her claims.
Collyer will allow Peart to proceed with her claim that Latham violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which includes pregnancy discrimination. The judge agreed with Latham that Peart couldn't make a hostile work environment claim under the law.
The judge also kept alive Peart's claim under the District of Columbia Human Rights Act, but only because neither side presented enough information for her to make a ruling at this point on whether she had jurisdiction.
Collyer dismissed Peart's claims for breach of contract and emotional distress, finding Peart missed the deadline for filing. She also dismissed an additional hostile work environment and discrimination claim under a federal statute targeting racial discrimination, finding Peart's claims had nothing to do with her race.
Peart, according to her complaint, learned she was pregnant several months after starting at Latham. She took short-term disability leave due to "extreme medical complications" related to her pregnancy. When she was fired, she claimed the director of human resources said her complications "were not his problem" and told others she was fired for taking leave to cope with morning sickness.
She filed a pregnancy discrimination claim in 2008 with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which transferred her case to the D.C. Office of Human Rights, according to the opinion. The office found that because Peart was "delinquent" in giving Latham information about her ability to return to work, the firm showed it had non-discriminatory reasons for firing her.
Earlier this year, the EEOC issued Peart a "Right to Sue" letter, allowing her to file a complaint. Collyer wrote the reasons for the delay were unclear.
Peart's lawyer, Washington solo practitioner Jonathan Dailey, said he’s eager to move forward with the case despite losing several claims. "Discovery will reveal multiple females who were discriminated against" at Latham, Dailey said.
In a statement, a Latham spokeswoman said the firm is "pleased with the judge’s ruling on several claims and we intend to vigorously defend the remaining claims as this matter proceeds.”