Sunday, October 17, 2010

Paralegal Sues Law Firm for Sexual Harassment and Pregnancy Discrimination

A Utah paralegal who claims she lost her job due to her pregnancy will have her case heard in federal court. Jeanne Marshall filed suit in U.S. District Court for Utah against high-profile Salt Lake City personal injury firm Siegfried & Jensen, alleging that the firm “has a bias against pregnant women in the office.” The firm has filed a response denying the paralegal’s allegations and requesting that her case be dismissed.

Marshall was employed as a senior medical malpractice paralegal for approximately two years before becoming pregnant with twins. In December 2007, she announced her pregnancy, but lost one of the twins a month later. She took a five-week medical leave before her doctor allowed her to work. She alleges she was assigned to a corner desk without a computer and not given any assignments, leading her to believe she was fired. The firm's position is that she is not fired, but is still on medical leave.

Marshall’s complaint includes offensive comments she alleges were made by her supervising attorney, who no longer works at the firm, as well as other attorneys at the firm. Whether the statements were made is an issue for trial, but the alleged statements are a prime example of what not to say under any circumstances at work, not even as a joke, and include:
  • Calling female employees hoes (likely not the kind to tend flower beds)
  • Telling a woman she “had her tampon on sideways”
  • Observing that “it must be that time of the month”
  • Observing that a pregnant employee looks "very pregnant" and is "no good" in that condition

The facts surrounding Marshall's dismissal are disputed by the law firm. She says her work product was good. A managing partner confirmed she was a competent paralegal, but described her as difficult to work with. Marshall’s attorney alleges that the same managing partner indicated during settlement discussions regarding her claim for unemployment benefits that she could return to work, “Only if she were to get a personality-ectomy.”

Marshall was awarded those unemployment benefits.

Sources: Deseret News; Salt Lake City Weekly

Related Post: What You Need to Know Now About Sexual Harassment

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