The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Ohio filed a complaint Tuesday in U.S. District Court alleging that a local religious community organization fired a Springfield woman last year after she became pregnant.
The complaint argues Jennifer Maudlin, a cook at Inside Out Inc., was fired in September last year after she informed her employer she was pregnant. The complaint says the organization has a history of discriminating against unmarried women who become pregnant. The ACLU is seeking more than $500,000 in damages, as well as attorney fees, and asks that Inside Out be required to create a written policy to prevent further discrimination of pregnant employees.
William Stout, president of Inside Out, said he was not aware of the complaint. But he said Maudlin was never fired and said the organization does not discriminate against its employees. Inside Out is a Christian outreach organization that provides assistance and programs for at-risk teens and families in Springfield.
“Basically, her allegations are false,” Stout said. “She wasn’t fired from Inside Out. She quit.”
Previously, the ACLU had filed a discrimination claim on Maudlin’s behalf with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. That agency is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or employee. On Aug. 28, that agency issued a Notice of Right to Sue, allowing the complaint to move forward, said Nick Worner, a spokesman for the ACLU of Ohio.
The EEOC was closed Tuesday due to the federal government shutdown, and officials there could not be reached for comment.
“Due to the lapse of appropriations, we are currently closed and not available to respond to your message,” an automatic email from the EEOC read. “We will return your email when the government re-opens.”
According to the complaint, Maudlin had worked as a cook between 2008 and 2012. In August last year, Maudlin informed her supervisor she was pregnant and was told she should not work that week, the complaint shows. When Maudlin later called to see when she could report to work again, the complaint alleges she was told she could not continue working there.
The complaint also argues Inside Out has developed a pattern of discriminating against female unmarried women who become pregnant, while not taking similar action against male employees. It also argues the organization does not have a written policy regarding non-marital sex or pregnancy.
“I think the biggest issue here, in our opinion is Jennifer was fired for being pregnant,” Worner said.
However, Stout said while his organization does have standards for how employees should conduct themselves, it does not discriminate, and has had other employees over the years in similar situations that were not fired.
Stout said he has little choice but to defend his organization in court.
“In her case she simply wasn’t terminated,” Stout said. “I think she’s trying to cash in.”