A former Merced County woman claims a Dos Palos orchid farm refused to allow her to return to work after her pregnancy and told other employees to avoid becoming pregnant because “there are too many babies coming,” according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says Dash Dream Plant Inc. violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by refusing to rehire Yanet Perez after she gave birth in late 2014, telling her there was no work even as it continued to hire other laborers, Melissa Barrios, the commission’s director in Fresno, said Wednesday.
“They gave her the runaround. They told her to return month after month,” Barrios said. “Finally, she was told, ‘Go ahead and apply for unemployment because we’re not going to hire you back.’
“It devastated her because she needed to work. She had not planned on being without a job after the birth of her child.”
It devastated (Yanet Perez) because she needed to work. She had not planned on being without a job after the birth of her child.
Melissa Barrios, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission director in Fresno
Perez had worked at Dash Dream since 2012 without any negative performance or conduct issues, Barrios said.
“There wouldn’t be any reason for her not to return to work after the delivery,” she said.
Perez, now 31 years old, has since moved out of Merced County, Barrios said.
A call to the phone number listed on Dash Dream’s website was not immediately returned Wednesday. The Merced Sun-Star was unable to immediately find an alternate phone number for Taebin Jung, who is listed as the company’s registered agent according to filings with the California secretary of state.
The company’s website says Dash Dream began in Korea and expanded to the United States in 1999, providing orchids to wholesale and retail buyers.
The complaint filed in the District Court in Fresno on Tuesday says Perez informed the company’s general manager, Boram Jung, that she was pregnant in January 2014. The next day, it says, she was transferred to a different position and told not to lift heavy objects even though she had not requested any modification of her work.
Soon after, at a staff meeting, Boram Jung told female employees not to get pregnant, the complaint says. Taebin Jung made similar comments, saying “no more babies,” and “there are too many babies coming,” it says.
Outside of the meeting, the two made comments such as “pregnant, bye” and said pregnant employees were problematic employees, the complaint says.
Perez was ordered to go on leave in February 2014 even though she was able to continue working and wanted to do so, it says.
The company’s actions were intentional and “done with malice or with reckless indifference” to federally protected rights of Perez and other workers, it says. Barrios said at least two other potential plaintiffs have been identified and others may come to light as authorities continue their investigation.
Barrios said the commission attempted to negotiate a settlement with Dash Dream prior to filing its complaint but was unable to do so.
The demand for a jury trial asks the court to order Dash Dream to halt discriminatory employment practices and to make appropriate amends including back pay, compensation for related losses, expenses and suffering, as well as punitive damages.
“It’s important for employers to be aware of what their rights and responsibilities are to women who have taken pregnancy leave or are pregnant,” Barrios said.
“It’s a fairly common issue, not just in this industry but in various industries. These types of cases, we regularly get them walking through our doors.”
Michelle Morgante: 209-385-2456