Workplace

Pregnant and fired. The feds are suing security guard’s former KCK employer

A Kansas City, Kan., security firm faces a federal lawsuit after its owner put an employee on unpaid leave after learning of her pregnancy.
A Kansas City, Kan., security firm faces a federal lawsuit after its owner put an employee on unpaid leave after learning of her pregnancy. Bigstock

The federal government has sued a Kansas City, Kan., security company, saying its owner fired an employee upon learning that she was pregnant.

Simmons Security and Protective Services Inc. had hired Lakisha Cole in December 2016 and began training her for a part-time job as an unarmed security guard, according to a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in an announcement of the lawsuit that the job involved patrolling downtown Kansas City, Kan., on foot and bicycle.

A few weeks later, Simmons' owner Angela Turner called Cole into her office and asked if she was pregnant, the EEOC's lawsuit said. It said Cole replied that she was pregnant but that it would not interfere with her work.

Turner put Cole on unpaid leave because she was "too much of a risk," the job was "not good" for Cole or her baby, and the company could not have a pregnant woman working because "it is not safe," the lawsuit said.

A letter Turner sent to Cole said she would be allowed to "resume working available hours once your baby is born and you have received a written medical release from a licensed physician."

Simmons Security and Turner could not be reached.

"All too often, pregnant workers are denied employment opportunities based on stereotypes and assumptions regarding their abilities," EEOC regional attorney Andrea G. Baran said in the EEOC's announcement. "This is simply unlawful employment discrimination."

Cole delivered her child in March 2017 and went to work at a different security company, the lawsuit said.

The EEOC seeks a court order requiring Simmons Security to "institute and carry out" policies and programs for women who are pregnant "and which eradicate the effects of its past and present unlawful employment practices."

It seeks back pay for Cole and punitive damages, without indicating the total of either amount.

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