By Brandi O. Brown, J.D.
A Hyatt Hotel room attendant who lost her placement at the hotel just six days after she reported her pregnancy can proceed with her Title VII suit against Hyatt and the contractor that placed her in the job, a federal district court in Louisiana ruled. Although she did not specifically plead that she was qualified for the position, her complaint alleged that she had been promoted to a supervisory position just moments before informing the hotel and the contractor of her pregnancy. The court declined to consider documents provided by the defendants, or to convert the motion to dismiss to one for summary judgment (Rubio v. Hyatt Corp., November 8, 2017, Barbier, C.).
Promoted, pregnancy announced, fired. Employed by C.R. Contractors, which provides employees for New Orleans-area hotels, the plaintiff was assigned to work for a Hyatt location in early February 2016. In mid-June she was called into a meeting with C.R.’s owner and the hotel general manager and told that she was being promoted to a supervisory position. Moments later, she informed the meeting attendees that she was pregnant. She alleged that six days later she was terminated.
Evidence is premature. The defendants alleged that no adverse action had been taken. Attached to their motion to dismiss, they presented an affidavit from C.R.’s owner stating that the employee was not fired, but instead would have been transferred to a Hyatt Regency location because of “issues” between the employee and management at the hotel where she was promoted. The defendants had tried to reach the employee to tell her she would need to interview at the other hotel, without success, according to the affidavit. They also presented email correspondence and cellphone records in support of this assertion.
However, the employee did not reference these materials in her complaint, so the documents were outside the pleadings. And the court in its discretion declined to convert the motion to dismiss into a summary judgment motion, noting that it was premature. The litigation was in its “beginning stages” and the parties had not had time to conduct discovery.
Only six days. Considering the pleadings alone, and drawing inferences in favor of the employee, the court denied the motion to dismiss. The employee adequately pleaded pregnancy discrimination under Title VII. Although she did not specifically state in her complaint that she was qualified for the position, allegations that she was employed for several months as a room attendant and then promoted to a supervisory position allowed the court to infer that she was. She also alleged that “moments after being promoted” she informed the defendants that she was pregnant, and was subsequently fired. Although she did not allege facts regarding non-pregnant comparators, she did not have to establish each prong of the prima facie case to survive a dismissal motion. In the Fifth Circuit, the court explained, close temporal proximity can be evidence of pretext in pregnancy discrimination cases.
The employee sufficiently stated facts showing she was fired because of her pregnancy. She alleged that her discharge came six days after she notified the defendants that she was pregnant and that there was “no good faith reason” for her termination. This is especially true with regards to motions to dismiss. Because the employee’s allegation reasonably allowed the court to infer a causal connection, the motion to dismiss was denied.
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