ABC News reports on Jennifer Paviglianiti’s charges of discrimination with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Bartender in Topless Bar Says She Was Discriminated Against for Being Pregnant By MARY KATHRYN BURKE and BRENNAN MCCORD
When Jennifer Paviglianiti, 29, of Centereach, N.Y., discovered she was pregnant, she hoped to wait until the three-month mark to tell her boss, John Doxey. But workplace gossip got to him first.
Once Doxey heard the news, Paviglianiti says, he immediately showed he had doubts about her work status.
Now, Paviglianiti says, she has been unfairly let go from her bartending job at the Cafe Royale gentlemen’s club. She has filed charges of discrimination with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
The charges, which were received by the EEOC on February 2, say the “cause of discrimination” is based on “sex, retaliation, perceived disability, and pregnancy.” In the charges, Paviglianiti says she “encountered continual blatant discrimination,” and that Doxey told her customers are “not coming in to see sexy bartenders that are pregnant and bulging out.”
Pushed Out? “I had a bad feeling from the beginning,” Paviglianiti tells ABC News, “I know John and once you’re on his bad side, you’re on his bad side. Two weeks before they took away my shifts he said, ‘I don’t see you making it through Thanksgiving.'”
Paviglianiti says she knew her pregnancy would put her on Doxey’s bad side. She says Doxey was making her job increasingly incompatible with pregnancy, forcing her to clean the bar with ammonia instead of cleaning fluids that are considered safer for expectant mothers.
“He also put an extra bartender on the shift, severely cutting back what I would bring home at the end of the night. He was doing everything he could to try to make me leave.”
Paviglianiti looked up pregnancy discrimination lawyers and began keeping a tape recorder in her purse at work. “I researched online how hard it is to prove discrimination,” Paviglianiti says, “I knew if anything were to happen I would at least have a tape. And I caught him saying things out loud so he couldn’t deny it. I made sure he said that I wasn’t in trouble and my registers aren’t short.”
The Tape: Smoking Gun?
“A pregnant woman behind the bar, in a topless bar, I’m beginning to think that it’s hurting the registers and you’re incapable of fulfilling all of your job duties.” Doxey says on the tape released to ABC News.
“I’m not saying that you’re not trying, OK, but number one, I don’t want nothing to happen to you…they’re not coming in to see sexy bartenders that are pregnant that are bulging out, I’m sorry…”
On the tape, Paviglianiti argues with Doxey to let her stay on the job, saying she is the highest-grossing bartender at the club. Doxey agrees she is doing well but says, “Each week you’re getting bigger and bigger, and uh, more unsexy, unsexy, OK….I’m not saying that you’re not ringing the register, I just said there’s all different things and aspects, customers don’t wanna come in and see a pregnant woman behind the bar. Why can’t you get that through your head, you’re not getting it.”
Paviglianiti says once she got Doxey on tape, she knew she had enough evidence to bring a case. “I went online and typed ‘women’s rights,'” she says.
That search is how Paviglianiti found attorney Jack Tuckner.
Tuckner says Paviglianiti’s decision to tape-record Doxey was both prudent and prescient. “This kind of thing happens all the time,” Tuckner tells ABC News, “It’s usually difficult to prove. But here we have a smoking gun. It was blatant.”
Recording a conversation, as Jennifer did, is completely legal in the state of New York, falling under the one-party consent statute which simply means that one party to the conversation must have knowledge and give consent to the recording.
After the Audio
Although Paviglianiti was prepared to be pushed out, she did not believe she would be let go until October 28, when she taped their conversation.
“My jaw hit the table,” Paviglianiti says, “I didn’t think he was going to put me in that position.” After seeking counsel and confronting Doxey with her claim, Paviglianiti was hired back at the club, but this time as a cashier, making less than half of what she made at the bar. She is a certified New York State teacher, but she has been unable to find a teaching job. When she became pregnant, she needed income more than ever.
“I need to work,” Paviglianiti says, “I need a job. And some money is better than no money.” Paviglianiti says after her daughter is born next month, she hopes to find work at a day care or nursery school. But today, she continues to work the overnight cashier shifts.
Fired for Being Pregnant…Not a New Trend
Jennifer Paviglianiti is not the first woman to file a discrimination lawsuit after being fired for being pregnant. Just this year, Margaret Gibson of Atlanta was awarded $80,000 in a settlement after she claimed that U.S. Security Associates, Inc. fired her for being pregnant.
In 2007 Amanda Wilson, a waitress at a Hooters restaurant in California, was fired after announcing she was pregnant. She claimed Hooters management cut her work week from five days to one, trimmed her supervisory responsibilities, and finally ended her job completely.
Similarly, Christina Nuss sued the owners of the Scotch & Sirloin restaurant where she worked in Wichita, Kan., for discrimination after she was fired in 2007. Nuss became concerned about how women were being treated at work. The lawsuit claimed that “Scotch management had told this waitress that her pregnancy was unattractive and unappealing to the male clientele of the Scotch, and that it did not fit their image.”
When reached on his cell phone about Jennifer Paviglianiti’s claim, John Doxey said he would have no comment. His lawyer, Robert F. Millman, told the ABC News Law & Justice Unit, “we are not prepared to respond to anything.” As for Paviglianiti, she says she wants Doxey to admit discrimination.
“I just want him to learn his lesson – he owns a business that is 90 percent women – somebody is going to get pregnant eventually. I shouldn’t have to choose between the job that pays the bills and my child. The car companies don’t care if I get laid off. If he gets away with it then a maybe anyone can get away with it.”
After the baby is born, Paviglianiti says she hopes to get her master’s degree in child care. Tuckner, her lawyer, says he is confident that before long, they will be able to prove their case.
“She stands for all women,” Tuckner says, “Why do we have a society that says you are less than because you are growing a baby inside you?”