A federal judge is allowing a woman who claims she was fired due to her pregnancy to join in a lawsuit that a federal civil rights agency has filed against Bismarck’s 40 Steak & Seafood restaurant.
Erica Davidson is within her rights to intervene in the case, and her request was not opposed by either the restaurant operator or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, U.S. Magistrate Judge Clare Hochhalter recently ruled.
Davidson has now filed a complaint, echoing the commission’s assertion that the restaurant’s conduct was “malicious and reckless.” Her attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday on the filing, though attorney Thomas Fiebiger has said previously that Davidson wants to “vindicate” her “own interests.”
The commission sued restaurant operator East 40 Inc. last December for discrimination, alleging that Davidson was fired just a few months after being hired in 2015 because she became pregnant.
The restaurant disputes that, maintaining Davidson was let go because she refused to commit to working at least three days a week. Attorney Michael Hoffman has said the company “values its pregnant employees.”
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Hoffman maintains that restaurant owner Dale Zimmerman did not even know Davidson was pregnant until after she was fired by a manager for failing to commit to minimum work requirements.
The restaurant also is accused of record-keeping violations, including discarding or destroying records related to Davidson’s job performance. East 40 denies the allegation.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission seeks an unspecified amount of money to compensate Davidson for lost past and future earnings and for emotional suffering, along with punitive damages. It also asks a judge to order the restaurant to institute policies to guard against any future discrimination. Davidson's complaint seeks the same things.
Barring an out-of-court settlement, the case won’t be resolved any time soon — Hochhalter has scheduled a jury trial for February 2021. Court documents indicate the commission held unsuccessful “conciliation discussions” with East 40 before filing the lawsuit.