Woman fired by Denver law firm for being pregnant reaches $30,000 settlement

DENVER -- A Denver law firm has agreed to pay a woman $30,000 to settle a discrimination lawsuit after she was fired for being pregnant, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced Thursday.

According to the lawsuit, the Bendinelli Law Firm hired a legal assistant in January 2017. After 10 days on the job, she told the law firm she was pregnant and she was fired the next day.

But the law firm says she got canned for her job performance.

“We no longer need your services,” Jennifer Rodriguez said.

Those are the jarring words told to Jennifer Rodriguez – who says she was fired because she was pregnant. The abrupt termination left her with no source of income.

“Huge sadness. I wasn’t sure what the next step was. Just devastated really,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said she was in the third trimester of her pregnancy with her son, Jay, when she was hired at the Law firm in January of 2017. She says after working there for ten days she told them she was pregnant.

“I believe it was obvious I was eight months pregnant and anyone could see it, but I still wanted to be clear about it and put it on the table,” Rodriguez said.

After Rodriguez was fired, she contacted the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and filed a lawsuit against the law firm. FOX31 talked to the head of the Bendinelli firm.

FOX 31: “Do you regret your decision to fire Ms. Rodriguez?”

Marco Bendinelli: “Based on the consequences I faced, yes. But only based on the consequences. The characterization that we are pregnancy unfavorable is a blatant mischaracterization.”

FOX 31: “Then how do you explain why she was let go?”

Marco Bendinelli: “Job performance ... and being less than forthright about her circumstance. I can’t go into details.”

According to court documents, the law firm says it fired her because she failed to disclose her pregnancy in the initial interview. The EEOC says that’s unlawful and clear discrimination.

The EEOC complaint alleges that the law firm asked Rodriguez if she suffered from any complications due to the pregnancy, would she “keep the baby” and whether she was acting as a surrogate.

Bendenelli denies those claims.

"She said she was 7 to 8 months pregnant then she said someone here said are you going to keep it? Now think about that, you can’t terminate a pregnancy in the third trimester. It was preposterous,” Bendinelli said.

For Rodriguez she says winning her settlement means she got justice and hopes others who feel discriminated in the work place will have the courage to come forward.

“I really hope from this situation on that no one gets to experience what I experienced because that was really devastating for me,” Rodriguez said.

“Ms. Rodriguez deserves a ton of credit for coming forward. Because unfortunately these type of cases are all too common. Not enough people come forward to the EEOC and file charges,” Karl Tetzlaff, Trial Attorney, U.S. EEOC, Denver Field Office said.

The law firm must now pay Rodriguez a settlement of $30,000 and undergo sensitivity and discrimination training.

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