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Jury to decide whether woman was fired for being pregnant

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed summary judgment in favor of a company on a fired employee’s claim that her employment was terminated because she was pregnant, finding the company’s explanations for her firing were shifting, inconsistent, and/or facially implausible.

Jennifer Hitchcock worked as a client services supervisor for Angel Corps, a non-medical home care agency that performs personal care services for clients. After her supervisor learned Hitchcock was three months pregnant, the supervisor asked if Hitchcock would be “quitting.” She also increased Hitchcock’s workload to include tasks that were normally performed by someone else.

Several weeks later, Hitchcock went to a home of a new client to do an assessment. This appointment had to be rescheduled because Hitchcock was ill on the original date a few days earlier. Hitchcock got an uneasy feeling from the son regarding his 100-year-old mother and when she saw the woman, thought she may be sick or dead. Hitchcock left and told her supervisor, who then called adult protection services, who then instructed them to call emergency personnel. The woman had been dead for several days.

Angel Corps fired her nearly a month later. Reasons given for the termination included that she performed a full admission on an expired client, although she did this at the request of the supervisor; that Hitchcock compromised the health and safety of the client; and she performed a deficient assessment on the potential client, but there was no explanation how the assessment was deficient.  

Hitchcock sued alleging violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Magistrate Judge Roger B. Cosbey granted summary judgment to Angel Corps.

Judge Ann Claire Williams pointed to the four potentially different explanations given for Hitchcock’s firing and how their inconsistency or suspicion create a reasonable inference that they do not reflect the real reason for Hitchcock’s firing.

“Angel Corps’s brief attempts to make sense out of these disparate explanations, but it does so by piling on additional ever-evolving justifications that may cause a reasonable juror to wonder whether Angel Corps can ever get its story straight,” she wrote in Jennifer Hitchcock v. Angel Corps, Inc., 12-3515.

The judges also noted that Hitchcock’s supervisor gave her more work to perform after learning she was pregnant and asked if she was “quitting.” An affidavit from a former co-worker who was pregnant while at Angel Corps said that the supervisor suggested that employee get an abortion when learning she was pregnant.

“In sum, we find that the evidence provides a sufficient basis for a rational jury to conclude that Hitchcock was fired because she was pregnant. Naturally, Angel Corps disputes several of the critical factual assertions made by Hitchcock. We leave it to the jury to decide whom to believe,” Williams wrote.

 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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