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March 28 — A medical records clerk for an Illinois gynecological and obstetrics practice who was fired after giving birth can proceed to trial with a pregnancy discrimination claim under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, a federal judge ruled.
The ruling provides an example of how to raise a triable Title VII claim through a direct method of proving bias with circumstantial evidence, as opposed to the more frequently used McDonnell Douglas indirect, burden-shifting method.
Here, Durcy Camacho presented sufficient circumstantial evidence from which a jury could find that Gynecologic Specialists of Northwestern S.C. treated her differently because of her pregnancy or childbirth, Judge Charles R. Norgle of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois said in denying summary judgment to the medical practice.
For instance, Norgle said, Camacho offered evidence that she was fired three weeks after giving birth even though the practice's policy allowed for six weeks of post-delivery leave.
Gynecologic Specialists contended that it fired Camacho because it needed to downsize, and it did so by promoting the only other medical records clerk to a receptionist position, filling that vacated position and eliminating Camacho's role.
The judge, however, found that one prior instance of downsizing by Gynecologic Specialists was a result of doctors leaving, such as when it ended its obstetrics practice and the number of doctors at the office dropped from eight to three. A similar decrease in doctors didn't occur before the alleged reduction-in-force that led to Camacho's discharge, he said.
Further discrediting the stated termination reason, Camacho presented evidence that the office manager demanded that Camacho cover the practice's share of her health insurance premiums and, when she couldn't pay, subsequently fired her in the same month it stopped paying the premiums, Norgle said.
“Therefore, a reasonable jury could find circumstantial evidence showing that Defendant treated Plaintiff differently because she was ‘affected by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions,' ” he said.
Pokorny & Marks represented Camacho. Rock Fusco & Connelly represented Gynecologic Specialists.
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Text of the opinion is available at http://www.bloomberglaw.com/public/document/Camacho_v_Gynecologic_Specialists_of_Northwestern_No_13_CV_3891_2.
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