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Latina Hotel Worker Settles Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit for $135,000

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Latina Hotel Worker Settles Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit for $135,000

Location: 
New York, NY

CONTACT: Christiaan Perez, cperez@latinojustice.org, 212-739-7581

Brookhaven, NY – Betsabe Cunya, a housekeeper at Hampton Inn Long Island-Brookhaven, recently settled her lawsuit against her former employer for $135,000.00.  The lawsuit alleged that her former employer passed her up for a promotion and harassed her because she was pregnant, in violation of Federal and State laws which prohibit employment discrimination, including against pregnant workers. Pregnant workers, particularly those who are low-income and Latina, are especially vulnerable to workplace exploitation and discriminatory employment actions. These workers are often retaliated against and subjected to a hostile work environment; many are frequently forced to quit their primary means of livelihood.
 
The lawsuit was filed in November of 2018 by LatinoJustice PRLDEF on behalf of Betsabe Cunya and other similarly situated pregnant employees against Sage BRE, a national hotel management chain and its affiliates, and UNUM Group, an insurance carrier. The civil rights law firm Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady joined Ms. Cunya’s legal team shortly thereafter.
 
The facts of Ms. Cunya’s case exemplify the type of discrimination that low-income and Latina workers face all too frequently.  Ms. Cunya’s employer denied her a promotion, citing her impending family leave and that she would be unable to handle the stress of the job while pregnant. Nonetheless, she was assigned extremely high workloads while in her third trimester. A male hotel supervisor ridiculed her, told her that pregnant workers were unwelcome in his housecleaning department, and, several times, imposed excessive tasks requiring Ms. Cunya and a co-worker also in her third trimester at the time, to stay late working long hours well beyond their shifts. One manager stated “her hormones were raging” when she raised concerns about her workload while pregnant. In addition, although New York State law mandates employers to provide disability benefit to pregnant workers when on leave, Ms. Cunya’s employer and its insurance carrier, failed to pay her this benefit, despite repeated requests. In December 2019, the employer and its insurance carrier agreed to settle the lawsuit, without admitting liability, and to pay $135,000 in damages, costs and attorneys’ fees. 
“I want to tell other working Latinas that they have to speak out and look for help,” said Bestabe Cunya. “If you are working and complying with the duties assigned to you then employers should have to comply with the law and afford you the rights to which you are entitled. We cannot stay quiet and scared. I hope that what happened to me and by me bringing a case, it stops similar actions from happening to other Latinas and all pregnant workers.”
“Employers bypass low-income workers of color for well-earned promotions and subject them and their unborn children to workplaces seeped in discriminatory harms on account of their pregnancy. Ms. Cunya courageously stood up against the injustices she experienced at work because of her pregnancy, so that her employer and other women would know that there are consequences for discriminating against pregnant workers,” said Nathalia Varela, Associate Counsel at LatinoJustice PRLDEF.
 
 “It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against pregnant workers,” said Debbie Greenberger, Plaintiff’s attorney at Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP.  “It is illegal for employers to restrict a worker’s job opportunities because she is pregnant.  Employers hope that low-wage workers, and workers of color, will be too intimidated to seek to vindicate their rights.  We are pleased we were able to fight for Ms. Cunya’s right to be treated fairly.”
 
About LatinoJustice 
LatinoJustice PRLDEF works to create a more just society by using and challenging the rule of law to secure transformative, equitable and accessible justice, by empowering our community and by fostering leadership through advocacy and education. For more than 40 years, LatinoJustice PRLDEF has acted as an advocate against injustices throughout New York and beyond. To learn more about LatinoJustice, visit www.latinojustice.org