A Florida retirement community will pay $70,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that a prospective employee was not hired because she might become pregnant.

Michelle Fredericks, according to the complaint, had worked for the dining department at The Glenridge on Palmer Ranch in Sarasota, FL, since 2007 as a server, busser, bartender or food purchasing clerk.

“In 2015, there was a vacancy for a dining supervisor position at Glenridge,” the EEOC said. “Glenridge managers informed Fredericks of the dining room supervisor position opening and encouraged her to apply for it.”

Before Fredericks applied, however, a dining department manager allegedly sent her a text message asking her when she planned to have another baby, adding, “With this position it doesn’t leave a lot of time off for long periods of time.”

Fredericks, according to the lawsuit, told the supervisor that she was not actively trying to become pregnant but could not guarantee that she would not have another child.

The EEOC said that Fredericks applied for the job Sept. 1, 2015, but was not interviewed or hired. Instead, the agency said, her employment was terminated three days later, and Glenridge hired an older woman for the position.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the federal agency said. The EEOC said it filed the lawsuit after unsuccessfully trying to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to the $70,000 in damages, the three-year consent decree settling the lawsuit requires Glenridge to adopt and distribute an updated policy against sex discrimination, conduct annual training on sex discrimination for its hiring personnel and post a notice about the lawsuit.

“The EEOC received nearly 3,000 charges alleging pregnancy discrimination in 2018,” said Evangeline Hawthorne, the EEOC’s Tampa Field Office director. “This settlement sends a clear message to employers that failing to prevent and address such discrimination has consequences,” she added.

The Glenridge on Palmer Ranch did not respond to a request for comment but in September, when the lawsuit was announced, told McKnight’s Senior Living that the manager’s text message was “unauthorized communication” that was “taken out of context.”

Fredericks did not formally apply for the position “and as a result, was not interviewed,” Sunya Wilson, part of the human resources team at The Glenridge on Palmer Ranch, told McKnight’s Senior Living last year.

“At The Glenridge on Palmer Ranch, our philosophy in hiring practices is to be equal and inclusive, and it is not our policy to discriminate,” Wilson said. “In this circumstance, we believe a text message exchange among co-workers and friends was taken out of context, and we regret that this unauthorized communication occurred.”

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