By ELIZABETH WARMERDAM
OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) – A Bank of America branch manager told a pregnant teller she could “have an abortion” or “give the baby up for adoption,” then fired her two months before her due date, the woman claims in court.
Melania Soto sued Bank of America in Alameda County Court for pregnancy discrimination and wrongful termination.
Soto claims she worked as a teller for six years, getting regular raises and promotions, until she told her branch manager, Phyllis Baker, that she was pregnant.
Baker is not a party to the lawsuit; the only defendants are the bank, and Does 1-20.
“Plaintiff had feared informing Baker because Baker had always made it clear to plaintiff that Baker disproved of branch employees becoming pregnant by engaging in conduct including, but not limited to, the following:
“Telling plaintiff that Baker did not like pregnant nor older workers because they are ‘slow’;
“Terminating at least two other pregnant employees during plaintiff’s employment with her, shortly after becoming aware of their pregnancies; and
“Commenting in a derogatory manner about another pregnant employee, stating that Baker would not have hired that employee had Baker known she was pregnant at the time.
“Plaintiff’s fears were well-founded when immediately after plaintiff informed
Baker of her pregnancy, Baker responded that plaintiff could ‘have an abortion’ or ‘give the baby up for adoption,'” Soto says in the complaint.
Then Baker and assistant manager Nichol Meshack began to harass Soto by not letting other employees help her lift heavy items, publicly calling her work restrictions on lifting heavy objects “ridiculous,” and repeatedly reprimanding her without justification, according to the complaint.
The harassed her by “taking seating stools away from plaintiff and forcing her to stand during her shifts, even though they had allowed her to sit on stool before her pregnancy,” and denying her bereavement time when close friends died on two occasions, she says in the lawsuit.
About seven months into her pregnancy, the bank’s Corporate Security Department told her she was required to maintain sufficient funds in her personal bank account – the first time she had ever heard of such a policy, Soto says.
Three days later, “two months before plaintiff was due to give birth and weeks before she was supposed to go on maternity leave, she was abruptly informed by Baker that she was being terminated,” Soto says in the complaint.
“Plaintiff asked Baker if she was being terminated because of the insufficient funds in her personal account a few days earlier, and Baker responded, ‘I guess so,'” Soto says.
Soto claims she never was given a specific reason for being fired, other than a formal notice of termination that said she had failed to follow policy and procedure and that Bank of America had lost trust in her as a bank associate.
Soto seeks punitive damages on 14 counts, including pregnancy discrimination, wrongful termination, California Family Rights Acts interference, retaliation, negligent training, and labor violations.
She is represented by Cary Kletter of San Mateo.