Retailer Unlawfully Fired Pregnant Employee Upon Receipt of Medical Information, Federal Agency Charges

HOUSTON – Party supply retail chain Party City Corporation violated federal law when a Texas store fired a pregnant employee after she presented the company with physical job restrictions from her doctor, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Jahneiss Groce was hired by Party City as a team leader in its Pearland, Texas store. Due to cancer treatment she had received, Groce experienced complica­tions in her pregnancy which resulted in some medical restrictions on her physical activities. When Groce presented Party City with these restrictions from her physician, Party City fired her, because of her pregnancy and/or her cancer-related condition, the EEOC said.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination, including pregnancy, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers to try to make reasonable accom­modations for medical and physical condi­tions. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division (Civil Action No. 4:19-cv-00824) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settle­ment through its conciliation process.

The federal agency is seeking a permanent injunction prohibiting Party City Corporation from engaging in any future sex or disability discrimination. The EEOC also seeks back pay with pre-judgment interest, and compensatory and punitive damages, in amounts to be determined at trial, and other relief.

“An employer cannot fire a pregnant worker with a disability because of assumptions and stereotypes,” said Rayford O. Irvin, district director of the EEOC Houston District Office. “In this case, an employee who had to deal with cancer and pregnancy was deprived of her livelihood without good cause. The EEOC is here to stand up for such discrimination victims.”

Regional attorney Rudy Sustaita of the Houston District Office added, “Companies must live up to their responsibility to evaluate each employee’s situation without bias based solely on their pregnancy or disability. When they fail to do so, the EEOC will endeavor to rectify the situation for the good of all.”

Rockaway, N.J.-based Party City operates and franchises stores that sell party goods and supplies.

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