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U.S. District Court finds Maine Employer Discriminated on the Basis of Pregnancy, Race, and Disability

Maine Human Rights Commission et al. v. Coffee Couple LLC et al.

U.S. District for the District Court of Maine Chief Judge John A. Woodcock recently affirmed Magistrate Judge Margaret J. Kravchuk’s decision recommending that judgment be entered against the company, Coffee Couple LLC, as well as against the owners of Coffee Couple, Karen and Calvin Boyle of Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada in connection with their discrimination against a number of Maine employees.

The Maine Human Rights Commission (“MHRC”) Maine Employee Rights Group (“MERG”), and Disability Rights Center (“DRC”), brought suit against Coffee Couple and the Boyles for acts of racial discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, gender discrimination and disability discrimination. Five plaintiffs were represented in this action; Chad T. Hansen of MERG represented two of the Plaintiffs, Jessica Page and Brittany Corliss, on their claims of gender and pregnancy discrimination. The MHRC and the DRC represented the remaining three plaintiffs on their claims of race and disability discrimination.

The plaintiffs each worked at a Tim Horton’s franchise for the Boyles and Coffee Couple, where they experienced multiple acts of discrimination at the hands of the Boyles.

Ms. Page, worked at the front counter of Tim Horton’s for four months but was terminated by the defendants after she disclosed that she was pregnant. Similarly, Ms. Corliss, worked for the defendants for almost a year until she also disclosed her pregnancy and was terminated.

Terminating an employee because they are pregnant constitutes unlawful sex discrimination under the state Maine Human Rights Act (“MHRA”) and also violates federal anti-discrimination law, Title VII.

After hearing testimony and arguments from the plaintiffs, Judge Kravchuk recommended that the Court enter default judgment finding Coffee Couple liable for unlawful employment discrimination with respect to the plaintiffs that were present at the hearing and also finding the Boyles individually liable for a number of discriminatory acts. On June 29, 2011, Judge Woodcock affirmed that decision, finding that the plaintiffs that had appeared at the hearing were discriminated against and that Ms. Page and Ms. Corliss were unlawfully discriminated against in violation of state and federal law on the basis of their pregnancy. In cases of intentional discrimination the court may award compensatory damages in addition to back pay, including damages for the loss of enjoyment of life and emotional pain and suffering. As a result, Ms. Page was awarded $11,440.00 in back pay, $1000.00 in compensatory damages, plus fees and costs as well as a $2,500.00 civil penalty against Coffee Couple and Ms. Corliss was awarded $1,333.00 in back pay, $10,000.00 in compensatory damages, plus fees and costs as well as a $1,000.00 civil penalty against both Calvin and Karen Boyle individually.

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