- Employee Failed to Prove Pregnancy Discrimination, Jury Verdict for Employer
- February 9, 2012 | Authors: Holly L. Cini; Beverly W. Garofalo
- Law Firm: Jackson Lewis LLP - Hartford Office
A Connecticut jury has found that an employer was not motivated by discriminatory animus when it laid off an employee who was on maternity leave. The trial of Canales v. Schick Manufacturing, Inc., Civil No. 3:09-CV-253(MRK), in which the plaintiff made federal and state law claims of pregnancy discrimination, lasted four days in the United States District Court of Connecticut at New Haven. Jackson Lewis Partner (and Hartford Office Managing Partner) Beverly Garofalo and Jackson Lewis Partner Holly Cini were trial counsel in the case.
The plaintiff, Carmen Canales, was a Sales Finance Manager in the Finance Department of Schick Manufacturing, Inc. n/k/a Energizer Personal Care. She announced she was pregnant in May of 2007. The plaintiff alleged that in the months following her announcement, a manager engaged in behavior that, she claimed, demonstrated impermissible bias against her. The complained-of behavior included the manager’s alleged failure to congratulate Canales when she told him she was pregnant. It also included an asserted requirement that she train another employee to do her job “just in case” she did not return from maternity leave, and the manager supposedly saying to her on one occasion, “you’re not coming back [from maternity leave], are you?” The company refuted these allegations at trial.
The plaintiff commenced maternity leave on September 25, 2007. On October 1, 2007, Schick merged with Playtex Products, Inc. As the evidence at trial demonstrated, the respective heads of the companies’ Finance Departments designed an organizational structure for the merged company that consisted of two Sales Finance Manager positions. Those division heads then identified a candidate slate for the two positions. It included the plaintiff, another Schick Sales Finance Manager, and a Playtex employee.
On November 2, 2007, a selection committee comprised of managers and Human Resources professionals from both companies (including the manager that was alleged to have made the remarks) met and discussed the background, strengths and development needs of the three candidates. Based on this assessment, and following the guiding principle to retain the “best people from both companies,” the decision was made to select the other two candidates over the plaintiff.
The plaintiff was informed she was laid off effective January 31, 2008. She was one of 147 employees laid off as a result of the merger and integration.
In her lawsuit, plaintiff claimed that the manager alleged to have exhibited bias had impermissibly injected that bias into the selection process. Schick, in turn, presented evidence demonstrating a lengthy history of satisfactory performance on the part of the plaintiff, while those selected for retention had been viewed as having superior performance and potential for success.
After fewer than 90 minutes of deliberation, the jury found in favor of the employer on all claims. “We are very gratified by the jury’s decision that pregnancy played absolutely no role in what the evidence clearly demonstrated was the reasonable, fair and objective decision-making process that led to the plaintiff’s lay off,” said Schick’s trial counsel, Beverly Garofalo. “As the jury properly found by its verdict,” Ms. Garofalo added, “the plaintiff was not entitled to greater protection from layoff than others because she had recently had a baby.”