GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (CBS4)– A Colorado judge ordered Montrose County to pay more than $300,000 after it was found guilty of discriminating against a pregnant employee who requested to work part-time.
The charges originate from a 2013 incident where former Director of the Internal Services Stephanie Barnett says she was fired nine days after informing her employer that she was pregnant, as reported by Western Slope Now.
Given that Montrose County allegedly broke multiple federal laws, the trial was overseen by a U.S. judge with a jury of 12 residents who ultimately reached a guilty verdict on Friday.
The county was ordered to pay Barnett $306,400 for illegally terminating her position after the jury determined it violated the Civil Rights Act of 1963 and Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978.
“The law states if you have a woman who is pregnant in your workplace, you can’t discriminate against her because of her pregnancy,” said Killian, Davis, Richter & Mayle prosecutor Nick Mayle, as reported by Western Slope. “You have to grant reasonable accommodations due to the pregnancy.”
Montrose County officials maintain their innocence regardless of the court’s decision.
“Although we respect the jury’s verdict, we disagree with it and continue to maintain that Ms. Barnett’s gender and/or pregnancy had nothing to do with her separation from County employment. The County continues to consider this case to be completely without merit,” county officials said in a statement.
Barnett’s 2013 pregnancy ended in a miscarriage five days after she was fired.
The number of pregnancy discrimination claims is on the rise, with a 45 percent in the United States from 1997 to 2011, according to information from the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission.