A lawsuit filed Wednesday claims The Catholic Charities stressed out an employee with a high-risk pregnancy and forced her to conduct heavy-duty tasks, causing her son’s premature birth.
Sindy Mejia was 12 weeks pregnant with her first child in September 2012, about six months after she started working at The Catholic Charities, according to the lawsuit filed in federal court.
She told her supervisor the pregnancy was diagnosed as high-risk and had to make frequent trips to the emergency room to prevent miscarrying. In response, the supervisor told her to talk to human resources about policies on pregnancy and to “keep her personal life separate from work,” the suit said.
Mejia was demoted a month later from office manager and billing coordinator to the “less desirable” position of program assistant, the suit said.
Although supervisors knew how fragile her pregnancy was, Mejia claims she was still asked to do manual labor around the office, including vacuuming, moving heavy filing cabinets, moving heavy paper shredding bins, carrying boxes between buildings and scrubbing the carpets.
In January 2013, Mejia claims she was hospitalized for an anxiety attack that stemmed from a stressful discussion she had with her supervisor about her demotion.
Doctors placed Mejia on bed rest, but her supervisor told her she was not eligible for Family and Medical Leave Act time off, and that she might not get her job back, the suit said. Human resources told Mejia she was eligible for the leave, but her supervisor continued to insist otherwise, she claims.
Mejia attempted to send her supervisor her medical paperwork but received no response. On February 12, 2013, Mejia was told she would receive the necessary FMLA paperwork. Three days later, she received the paperwork and a termination letter.
The work-related stress and the heavy lifting caused Mejia to prematurely deliver her son, Diego, shortly after she was hospitalized for the anxiety attack, the suit said. Diego Mejia, also named as a plaintiff, was in the the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit for two weeks and continues to show delayed development, the suit said.
The Catholic Charities declined to comment because the lawsuit is pending, spokeswoman Kristine Kappel said in a statement.
The six-count suit claims Mejia was discriminated against for being a woman and being pregnant. It is also alleged that Mejia was always eligible for FMLA and that she was intentionally denied her rights until she was fired. Among her demands, Mejia is asking for her job back and an unspecified amount in damages.