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Bryant Whitten, LLP

California lawsuit alleges sex and pregnancy discrimination

A seven-year employee of Zionist Organization of America accuses the organization of workplace discrimination and wrongful termination after she took maternity leave. The organization's president took the stand as the final witness in the bench trial last week. The employee was the California-based national director for the group's campus activities department. The group advocates on issues regarding Israel and has an estimated $4 million budget.

The plaintiff alleges sex and pregnancy discrimination in her suit claiming that when she returned from a short maternity leave after her third pregnancy in May 2009 the group fired her without cause. The organization asserts that it needed to cut costs after the economic collapse in late 2008, and when the new national director said he could perform her duties and save the organization the cost of her salary it made the decision to terminate her position. It also stated it accommodated the plaintiff through three pregnancies.

A brief filed by the plaintiff's San Francisco-based attorney argued that ZOA promoted a male employee to fill the plaintiff's position and maintained the same number of employees in her department. The suit also contends that ZOA has fired three women shortly after they have taken maternity leave. The organization said the women were fired for cause and contends that was the case with the plaintiff. However, there were no details provided on what exactly the cause for the plaintiff's termination was.

The plaintiff is seeking $900,000 in lost pay and future lost earnings potential, as well as an unspecified amount in punitive damages and compensation for the intentional infliction of emotional distress. California Superior Court Judge Richard A. Stone, who presided over the jury-less trial, has 90 days in which to render his verdict in the case.

Source: Jewish Journal, "ZOA defends itself against discrimination suit," Julie Gruenbaum Fax, June 20, 2012

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