Pregnant employee wins claim of biased treatment
The former owner of a Medford bar and grill, and his defunct business, have been ordered by the state to pay $172,000 for demoting, then firing, an assistant manager because she was pregnant.
The decision against Gary Speaks and Cybercenter Sports Grill, formerly located on Automation Way in Medford, was issued by Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, who oversees the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries Commission.
Alan McClullough, a designated BOLI administrative law judge, in January conducted a four-day hearing into the claims filed by Amanda Glover, the former employee.
The restaurant, which Speaks sold in August 2010 and is now defunct, owes Glover $20,000 for her emotional and mental suffering based on her demotion, and about $40 in back pay, according to the ruling. BOLI held Speaks liable for an additional $12,000 in back pay and $140,000 in emotional and mental suffering damages for aiding and abetting the unlawful termination.
Glover could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The 48-page BOLI report states the company and Speaks unlawfully discriminated against Glover "based on her sex/pregnancy."
Speaks said Wednesday he would not appeal BOLI's decision. But he denounced the hearing process, and said he would not pay Glover a penny of the award amount.
"The sports bar is gone," Speaks said. "And I'm retired. What are they going to get out of me? I own nothing. I have no assets whatsoever."
According to Avakian's BOLI order, Glover was hired in November 2008 as a server/bartender. In February 2009, Speaks promoted Glover to the assistant night manager position and raised her wage to $10 per hour plus tips.
Glover alleged that in May 2009 she told Speaks she was pregnant. Later that month, she said, Speaks hired a new manager, Glover was demoted to her former position as server and her pay was cut to the minimum wage of $8.40 per hour.
She said that nine days later, on June 1, 2009, Speaks' new manager, Jay Winegar, left a message at Glover's home that she had been fired because of her "attitude."
Glover testified she felt "depressed" at being fired, and "degraded" and "belittled" because she knew the reason she was fired was because of her pregnancy.
Glover told the hearings judge that Winegar had told her just weeks before her termination that he didn't believe she was "going to have the availability we are looking for in the future because you are pregnant."
Her plan was to work through her pregnancy, then return to work after she delivered her baby, she said.
The stress of Glover's dismissal caused her to become depressed and fight with her boyfriend; she was unable to find work and applied for food stamps. She said she also had to seek financial help from her mother to pay for "a lot of things for (her) baby," the report read.
Witnesses testified that the day of Glover's dismissal, Speaks, his wife and Winegar discussed their decision to fire her. The report says that during that conversation, Winegar stated "because of (Glover's) constant references to her pregnancy we really need to cover our butts."
Speaks said the conversation occurred because Glover was complaining to customers about her demotion, saying it had happened because of her pregnancy.
Speaks denied Glover was terminated because of her pregnancy and said Glover's job was on the block because of her attitude over mistakes she had made. Glover once served a minor drinks during an Oregon Liquor Control Commission sting, offered too much of a discount to patrons with coupons and "couldn't add or subtract or do basic math," Speaks said.
The report ruled Glover testified "credibly and at length as to the emotional and mental suffering she experienced as a result of her discharge." It based the damages award primarily on her testimony.
Glover's baby was born on Dec. 29, 2009. By mid-April 2010 she was working at another restaurant as a server/bartender.
BOLI found "a general lack of credibility" in the testimony of Speaks and Winegar. The bar had "engaged in three distinct unlawful employment actions — demoting (Glover) from her assistant night manager position, cutting her pay and discharging her. Speaks "aided and abetted" in the unlawful discharge, the BOLI ruling states.
Speaks insists BOLI has it wrong, and says he regrets ever opening the business.
"One of the biggest mistakes I've ever made in my life was opening up a restaurant," Speaks said.
Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.