(The Center Square) – The Minnesota Department of Human Rights announced a settlement agreement with PL Dental in Coon Rapids after finding the employer violated Minnesota’s civil rights law when it fired Christina Vescio-Holland because of her pregnancy.
MDHR’s investigation found that, at the end of December 2020, Vescio-Holland notified PL Dental she was pregnant with twins and her doctor recommended she begin parental leave earlier than originally anticipated.
“At a moment when this employee’s economic security was especially important to Christina and her family, Christina’s employer unlawfully fired her because of her pregnancy,” MDHR Commissioner Rebecca Lucero said in a statement. “State law has prohibited pregnancy discrimination for decades and this case is a reminder how critical it is for employers to have supportive policies in place for pregnant employees.”
Days later, Vescio-Holland met with the office manager who fired her from her position because of her pregnancy. The office manager noted Vescio-Holland’s pregnancy when she said that PL Dental would hire Vescio-Holland back after she gave birth and was ready to return to work.
While PL Dental later provided Vescio-Holland with a termination letter claiming that Vescio-Holland had performance shortcomings, MDHR’s investigation found that PL Dental had no credible evidence of concerns with Vescio-Holland’s performance.
MDHR found that PL Dental fired Vescio-Holland because of her pregnancy, not because of any alleged performance shortcomings.
The settlement agreement requires PL Dental to take action to prevent future unlawful discrimination. This includes training employees on how to create inclusive workplaces, enforcing anti-discrimination policies and submitting regular reports to MDHR so the agency can monitor compliance.
MDHR will monitor PL Dental’s compliance with the agreement for five years.
PL Dental is also required to pay Vescio-Holland $97,500, which is about equivalent to three years of wages.
“I just want people to know that they have options when something like this happens. And don’t give up just because one door closes – keep fighting,” Christina Vescio-Holland said in a statement.
Pregnancy discrimination has been illegal in Minnesota since 1977, which can include an employer denying a temporary reasonable accommodation to a pregnant employee or an employer firing or denying a promotion to an employee based on the employee’s pregnancy.
A potential or current employee is not required to tell an employer that they are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Additionally, an employer cannot ask a potential or current employee if they are pregnant or plan to have children.
The Minnesota Department of Human Rights is responsible for enforcing the Minnesota Human Rights Act.