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Latham's Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit Proceeds After Pruning

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By William Peacock, Esq. on October 29, 2013 12:52 PM

Former Latham & Watkins legal secretary Demetria Peart was fired in January 2008, right around the spark point of the housing bubble collapse and recession. The culling of staff over the next few years, including 440 layoffs at Latham one year later, are the stuff of BigLaw nightmares.

But she wasn't fired because of the recession, nor was she "laid off." She claims that she was fired because the firm didn't want to accommodate her pregnancy-related medical issues. The firm claimed that she was terminated due to a lack of communication, a claim substantiated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Now, after a judge refused to toss the lawsuit, the firm will have to defend itself in court, absent a settlement.

The Allegations

Peart started at the firm in April 2007. A few months into her tenure, she learned that she was pregnant. She was forced to take short-term disability leave due to "extreme medical complications," and when she tried to return, she was terminated.

According to the Blog of Legal Times, the human resources director said that her complications "were not his problem." The complaint states that other personnel told Peart that they were told that she was terminated because of "damn thirteen weeks for morning sickness," while Peart claims that her reason for taking leave was not morning sickness, but a tear in her placenta.

Way back in 2008, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission looked into the case and found that because she was delinquent in handing over information to Latham about her ability to return to work, the firm showed a non-discriminatory reason to terminate her employment. For unknown reasons, the agency did not issue a "right to sue" letter until three years later.

The Pruning

According to BLT, the court allowed Peart to press her Title VII claims, including pregnancy discrimination, as well as her District of Columbia Human Rights Act claim, with the caveat that the latter claim may have jurisdictional issues (and could be dropped later).

It wasn't all bad news for Latham, however, as Peart's breach of contract and emotional distress claims were dismissed due to a missed filing deadline, and her hostile work environment and discrimination claims brought under a federal race discrimination statute were also culled because Peart's claims had nothing to do with race.

The Reactions

Both parties expressed mixed feelings, with Peart's attorney Jonathan Dailey expressing his eagerness to move forward and stating, "Discovery will reveal multiple females who were discriminated against" at Latham, reports BLT. Latham released a statement, noting that it would "vigorously defend" against the remaining claims.

Peart is seeking $11 million in damages.

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