Maternity Company Sued for Discriminating Against Pregnant Employee

A district manager at Mothers Work, Inc. recently filed a lawsuit alleging that the company, a maternity-clothing retailer, fired her because she was pregnant. Mothers Work, which owns 900 stores under the names Mimi Maternity, iMaternity, Motherhood Maternity, and A Pea in the Pod, used Cynthia Papageorge’s pregnant “state,” as company vice-president Frank Mullay put it, to make her feel demeaned, ugly, and belittled, according to the Boston Globe. Upon making a surprise visit to the company in October of 1999, he criticized Papageorge, then 37 weeks pregnant, for poor housekeeping at three stores under her jurisdiction, the Globe reports.

Papageorge alleges in her lawsuit that when she left Mothers Work for her maternity leave, Mullay ordered her boss, Jan Dowe, to fire Papageorge, according to the Philadelphia Daily News. Dowe said the request was illegal and refused to fire Papageorge. In her affidavit, she states that Mullay informed her that “there are ways of getting around the law,” according to the Boston Globe. Citing subpar performance, the company fired Dowe when she continued to stand her ground before Papageorge returned to Mothers Work after her maternity leave. Papageorge later requested medical leave after sustaining a shoulder injury, and she lost her job as well, the Globe reports.

Papageorge has filed a lawsuit against Mothers Work and Mullay, claiming that they are guilty of discrimination based on sex and pregnancy. A spokeswoman for Mothers Work told the Boston Globe that “the suit is without merit and will be appropriately and successfully defended.” The Papageorge case is the fourth such case filed against Mothers Work; one was dismissed and two were settled out of court.

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Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report 6/27/03; Philadelphia Daily News 6/28/03; Boston Globe 6/26/03

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