OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) - Two Hispanic women say Bank of America discriminated against them during their pregnancies and fired them when they complained. One says she was denied a lunch break while pregnant, but was told to "bring cookies and duck under her desk and eat quickly." The other says she was not allowed to stay home with her sick baby, but was ordered to bring the girl to work and put her in "a Xerox box underneath the desk."
In their federal lawsuit, Maria Gutierrez and Marcella Gomez claim supervisors at Bank of America's Hayward branch consistently denied them meal and rest breaks while they were pregnant.
Gomez says that during her pregnancy her supervisors "would have her stand in the middle of the bricked floor lobby for many consecutive hours and greet customers practically all day." Gutierrez says that rather than allow her to take a lunch break while she was pregnant, her supervisor told her to hide under her desk and eat cookies, because "he really needed her to be there."
Both women say their work conditions only worsened after they gave birth. Both say their maternity leave was cut short and that upon returning to work, they were forced to endure their supervisors' hostility. Gomez claims that when she told a supervisor she was entitled to more maternity leave, the supervisor said, "It must be nice, because when she had her kids she didn't have all this time off."
Gutierrez says a supervisor was reluctant to give her any breaks to pump breast milk, suggesting that she feed her newborn daughter formula because "his wife did the same to her baby." The supervisor eventually gave her two breaks for this during the workday, but would often barge in on her "and ask her to stop and go help customers."
Both plaintiffs say they were harassed for taking time off to care for their children when they fell ill.
Gutierrez says her supervisor told her to bring her sick child to work "because he really needed her to complete her work day." When she arrived at the office with her daughter, he had "placed a Xerox box underneath the desk and [Gutierrez] was told to put her baby inside the box." Gutierrez says that a customer she assisted heard the sick baby crying in the box and "was insulted by the conditions in which Gutierrez's baby was kept."
The women say supervisors interrogated them anytime they asked for a day off to care for their sick children, or if they were ill themselves. Gomez claims that a supervisor questioned her about a birthday party she planned for her daughter, asking, "If she was so sick how was it that she was still having a party for her daughter."
Gutierrez and Gomez say they reported a supervisor to the Bank of America supposedly confidential "ethics hotline" when they noticed her opening unnecessary accounts "with the wrong documentation."
Both say they were fired after they made the report, under the pretext that a loan Gomez made to Gutierrez violated the bank's code of ethics.
They say they would not have been treated so poorly were they not Hispanic women.
They seek punitive damages for harassment, retaliation, discrimination and wrongful termination. They are represented by Pamela Pitt of San Francisco.
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