FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 15th, 2011
Contact: Michael Sacks, 800-668-3247 ext. 131
PENNSYLVANIA WOMAN RECEIVES JUDGMENT FROM PROMINENT CAR DEALER FOR BEING FIRED DUE TO PREGNANCY
14-year employee claims owner of car dealership noticed her "glow" and a few months later told her to "go".
(Doylestown, PA) - A woman who worked 14 years for a large Pennsylvania car dealership, promoted from part-time night cashier all the way to service manager, received a judgment of $150,000 plus interests, legal costs and attorney fees in a wrongful termination claim. Fired from Fred Beans Hyundai within a few months of announcing her third pregnancy, Cherie Santai of Perkasie, PA sued in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Santai was represented by attorney Craig Thor Kimmel, of Kimmel & Silverman, P.C. a regional law firm with corporate offices in Ambler, Pennsylvania.
Named as co-Defendants was Fred Beans, his daughter and vice-president Elizabeth Beans Gilbert, the Hyundai dealership itself and the parent company, Fred Beans Ford, Inc. The dealer and its affiliate business employ more than 1,800 people, and has annual revenues of more than $800 million according to testimony in the case.
Santai was hired in March, 1994 as a part-time cashier. Over the years she rose through the ranks within the company, often reporting directly to Fred Beans and his daughter. The company admired her work so much that after changing to part-time status to be with her second child, it was requested she to return to full-time status with a larger role at the company. Santai did so, eventually becoming Service Manager for Beansí Hyundai dealership and earning record profits three times in the year before she was fired.
According to the allegations, problems began when Mr. Beans "noticed a glow" about Santai in March 2008 at a weekly meeting of managers, saying that she looked "happy" and asking if she was again pregnant for a third time. While she was not, she did become pregnant two months later. Santai advised Beans at a weekly management meeting in early 2008 but the news was not well received. Fred Beans showed what is alleged to have been "visible and obvious disgust", asking about the pregnancy and its impact on Santaiís work. Reminding Beans that her news was a "good thing" Beans was alleged to reply that being pregnant meant she could not work as a service manager and that she would be shifted to a lesser position until her delivery, but not before she located and trained her temporary replacement, a male with less experience.
Fred Beans Suit
In October, 2008, just weeks before her planned maternity leave, Santai was fired personally by Mr. Beans, who told her that the Hyundai service manager position was being eliminated. Santai was the only female service manager and the only pregnant employee let go. Separation paperwork stated that the decision was permanent, yet a few weeks later, the male replacement who Santai hired, began identifying himself as "Service Manager of Fred Beans Hyundai". Santai then received service reminder calls from Beans regarding her own car, all of which identified the male replacement by name, and as "Service Manager of Fred Beans Hyundai". Santai retained the recordings, which she received over 10 months.
Santai alleged the firing was pre-textual, that she was in fact terminated because she was pregnant and that it was discriminatory. After submitting her claim jointly to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC), a finding of Probable Cause for Adverse Employment Action was issued against parent company Fred Beans Ford, Inc. After that decision, the dealership offered Santai her job back, in a letter stating that the same position that had allegedly been eliminated was now once again available. A complaint in Federal Court was filed shortly thereafter.
According to Kimmel, "Women do not have to accept discrimination in the work place or accept a lesser position, a termination or other adverse job action due to a pregnancy."
"After being a dedicated and loyal employee to Mr. Beans for more than 14 years, I was deeply distraught with his reaction to my pregnancy," says Santai. "I was completely shocked by my dismissal. While this award does not make up for the distress and financial hardship I experienced during my pregnancy, I feel it does send a clear message to Mr. Beans that he was wrong. I hope it will prevent him from doing this to another long-standing employee."
Kimmel urges women who feel they have been discriminated against due to pregnancy to speak with a lawyer immediately. "The law provides consequences to employers and fair remedies to those who have been discriminated against, but there is a very short period of time within which action must be taken to preserve those rights. The law requires the employer to pay attorney fees and costs for successful claims. Attorneys typically accept these cases without charging a client for services. Getting help is as easy as finding a good employment lawyer and telling your story."
Copies of the pleadings and transcripts in this case are available below. For more information regarding employment rights, visit www.unfairlyfired.com.
Read the Philadelphia Inquirer story here: Pregnancy bias in the workplace is alive and well
Kimmel & Silverman, P.C.: Representing real people with real problems, since 1991.