Hotel Worker Allegedly Fired For Saying 'Bye-Bye,' Sues For Pregnancy Discrimination
Melodee Megia was fired from her job at a luxury Las Vegas resort casino in September 2011, allegedly for saying "bye-bye" on the phone instead of "goodbye." But after enduring months of jokes and insults about her pregnancy, the eight-months-along Megia had her suspicions. The new mother has now filed a lawsuit against the hotel, alleging pregnancy discrimination and labor law violations.
Megia, 37, started working at The Cosmopolitan Resort and Casino in Las Vegas in November 2010, answering the phone when guests called for room service, and occasionally assisting in making deliveries. When she started showing signs of pregnancy in March 2011, her supervisor started making derogatory comments about it, and giving her dirty looks, according to the complaint.
In September, Megia's supervisor allegedly told her that she was fired for ending a phone call with "bye-bye." This was just "pretext," the lawsuit states; he wanted her out because she was pregnant. With only a month before her child's birth, Megia faced a loss of health insurance and ineligibility for unemployment benefits because she was fired "for cause." Megia hasn't been able to find work since, according to her attorney, Mark Thierman, and has suffered symptoms of panic, anxiety and depression.
"She's doesn't have a PhD," Thierman says. "She's doing what she can to get by."
Pregnancy discrimination lawsuits have been on the rise for years. Over the past decade, there have been 54,000 such charges, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. And employers have shelled out more than $150 million in compensation.
Megia's complaint lists a series of remarks that her boss allegedly made soon after she started showing: When Megia was told to deliver a "pleasure packet" of condoms to a customer, her boss told her, "Isn't it too late for that? You should have thought about it before getting knocked up"; he also asked her why she'd gotten pregnant and "So when are you having that?"; and told Megia's co-worker, "That is what happens when you have sex."
One time Megia's paycheck's bounced without her knowing, the complaint also alleges, and as a result Megia overdrew her bank account and it was shut down. While the hotel later issued her a valid paycheck, Megia claims that the hotel never paid her back for all the extra charges.
Thierman says that there's an "atmosphere" of harassment and labor abuses at The Cosmopolitian. Since the resort opened in December 2010, he says, he's received calls from three different employees there alleging incidents of inappropriate behavior and sexual harassment. He claims to have received a further dozen calls about wage violations.
"Las Vegas is pro-business, which is fine," says Thierman. "But you still have to treat people decently."
Megia's lawsuit also has a class-action component, brought on behalf of over 3,000 employees who were allegedly denied wages they were owed. Megia had to show up before her shift everyday, the lawsuit states, and wait to get her uniform, and had to stay after she clocked out everyday to change out of her clothes. Megia, like all the other uniformed employees, wasn't paid for the time spent waiting and changing, according to Thierman, which was around half an hour a day.
The hotel also calculated the amount of time that employees worked with a rounding system that was skewed in its favor, according to the complaint, so workers were denied compensation for time they spent working. The hotel also allegedly skimped on overtime by not calculating commissions into employees' regular rate of pay.
The Cosmpolitan would not comment on pending litigation, "as a matter of company policy."
Megia is seeking compensation for lost wages and benefits, the penalties resulting from the bounced check, her medical expenses and attorney's fees. She's also wants a punitive damage award. In the class action lawsuit, she seeks compensation for unpaid wages and overtime.
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Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.
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