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Monday, June 17, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Fired Legal Secretary Has a Shot Against Latham

WASHINGTON (CN) - Latham Watkins must face claims that it discriminated when it fired a pregnant legal secretary whose doctor ordered bed rest, a federal judge ruled.

Though the events at issue occurred in 2008, they are only before the court now because the Equal Opportunity Commission waited over five years to issue Demetria Peart a right-to-sue letter, "for reasons unexplained in the record," U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer said.

Peart had learned she was pregnant in October 2007 - just six months after the firm hired her as a legal secretary. By November, serious medical complications relating to Peart's pregnancy allegedly forced her "to go on doctor-mandated bed rest," Collyer wrote, summarizing Peat's complaint.

The secretary was on short-term disability in January 2008 when a Latham Watkins human resources manager told her that "she was fired from the firm because 'she was no longer needed,' adding that 'her pregnancy complications were not his problem,'" the summary continues.

Peart, who is black, says that this employee meanwhile told other Latham personnel that "she had been terminated because of 'damn thirteen weeks [of] morning sickness' and that her pregnancy was 'not [their] concern.'"

Latham Watkins had moved to dismiss the first count as "limited to a single claim" of hostile work environment under Title VII, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

Collyer agreed last week that Peat does not have a case for hostile work environment since the alleged hostilities were isolated events, "occurring only twice."

The judge concluded, however, that there was more to Count I than meets the eye, finding sufficient facts to make out claims for gender and pregnancy discrimination as well as disparate treatment.

After striking out the next three counts as time-barred, Collyer also preserved Peart's claim under the D.C. Human Rights Act claim.

On this issue, the court needs time to determine whether it has subject matter jurisdiction, the 24-page opinion states.

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