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EEOC sues insurer over fired employee who had a baby

• Nov 30, 2019 at 2:36 AM

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The federal government is suing a Little Rock-based insurance company over the firing of a worker who had just had a baby.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the lawsuit Wednesday in Little Rock against USAble Life on behalf of former employee Christian DeClue.

The EEOC complaint says DeClue had interviewed for two promotions at USAble Life during her maternity leave but was denied the jobs. The company said she lacked the requisite managerial experience, but she complained to company officials in late March 2018 that she was blocked because she would need lactation breaks and was taking medication for postpartum depression.

When DeClue complained in early April 2018 to Blue Cross Blue Shield, which is served and partially owned by USAble Life, DeClue said she was fired a week later in retaliation for complaining to a third party.

The commission said it filed the lawsuit after efforts failed to reach a settlement.

“An employer cannot punish an employee for complaining about treatment that the employee reasonably believes constitutes discrimination,” EEOC District Director Delner Franklin-Thomas said in a statement. “Terminating an employee because of her complaint creates a chilling effect in the workplace and discourages others from complaining.

USAble Life’s office was closed Friday and officials couldn’t be reached for comment.

DeClue had been a USAble Life employee for about 2½ years at the time of her dismissal. She is seeking backpay, unspecified compensatory and punitive damages and compensation for lost benefits.

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