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Thome v. Young Men's Christian Association of Greater Houston Area

United States District Court, S.D. Texas

June 4, 2019

Brionne Thome, Plaintiff,
v.
Young Men's Christian Association of the Greater Houston Area, Defendant.

          OPINION ON SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Lynn N. Hughes, United States District Judge.

         1. Introduction.

         The question is whether there is substantial evidence to support the claim that Brionne Thome was fired due to pregnancy discrimination in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.[1]

         2. Facts.

         Thome worked as the Youth Development Director of Aquatics for the Young Men's Christian Association of Greater Houston. She was in charge of more than 50 mostly highschool-aged employees.

         At a staff meeting in January 2014, she told the other staffing directors that she was pregnant. Coworkers, including her immediate supervisor, inquired about (a) the identity of the father and (b) if she intended to move closer to her family to raise her child. Questions of this tone continued throughout her pregnancy.

         As her due date approached, she applied for Family & Medical Leave (FMLA). She also planned to extend her time off by using her unused vacation and sick days. Thome says that on one weekend in June of 2014, she worked for 22 hours fixing errors made on time cards by her staff. By that Sunday, June 15, she claimed exhaustion. She sent all of her employees an email suggesting that they may not get paid depending largely on how she felt. The email was immature, sarcastic, mean, and not in accordance with the YMCA nor employment law policies. One parent of a young employee threatened to sue the YMCA. HR was alerted, and Thome was terminated. Thome filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission citing pregnancy-based discrimination. She exhausted her administrative remedies and received her letter allowing her to sue on July 26, 2017.

         3. The Statute.

         A. Title VII Discrimination

         The law forbids an employer from discharging or discriminating against a person with respect to their compensations, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Sex includes, but is not limited to, pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.[2]

         B. Burden Shifting.

         The law furnishes a process.[3] Thome must first establish a prima facie case of pregnancy discrimination. Then, the burden shifts to the YMCA, which must produce a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for its actions. The YMCA is not required to convince the court that it was actually motivated by this reason, it only must raise a genuine fact as to whether or not it discriminated against Thome. Next, Thome must supply the court the evidence that (a) the YMCA intentionally discriminated against her because of her protected status and (b) the offered reason was untrue.

         4. Application.

         Thome has not established a prima facie case of pregnancy discrimination. Thome told her supervisors that she was pregnant in January 2014. After this disclosure, she remained employed in the same position, at the same pay rate, by the YMCA ...


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