A former legal secretary in the Washington office of Latham & Watkins is suing the firm for alleged pregnancy-related discrimination and unlawful termination, claiming she was subjected to "outrageous, misogynistic attitude, behavior, and treatment of a woman that shocks the conscience."
According to the complaint, filed Monday morning in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Demetria Peart was hired as a legal secretary at Latham in April 2007. She learned she was pregnant in October 2007 and said that after she took short-term disability leave due to "extreme medical complications" related to her pregnancy, she was fired in late January 2008.
A firm spokeswoman declined to comment. Peart accused the firm of firing her for taking approved leave to deal with pregnancy-related complications. At the time she was fired, she said, the director of human resources told her that her pregnancy complications "were not his problem."
Peart, who said her doctor put her on bed rest after she suffered a tear in her placenta, said she learned that the human resources director told others in the office she was fired for taking leave for morning sickness.
"I was on mandated bed rest," she said in an interview. "I did everything I was supposed to do as far as getting my disability and checking in.…They just terminated me at my lowest point, regardless of all that I had done."
Peart said in the complaint that she was a "well-regarded" employee and did not have a history of work-related complaints or problems. Her attorney, local solo practitioner Jonathan Dailey, said he had never used the word "misogynistic" in a pleading before, but thought it was warranted. "That’s exactly why this law was passed, to prevent that," he said, referring to the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
Besides filing a claim under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, Peart is suing for wrongful termination, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and a violation of the District of Columbia Human Rights Act.
She is seeking $1 million in compensatory damages and upwards of $10 million in punitive damages.
The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer.