Doctor Demanded Receptionist Have Abortion For Sake Of His 'Image,' Lawsuit Claims
It's illegal in this country to discriminate against a pregnant woman, and that includes telling a pregnant woman that she has to get an abortion to keep her job. But a doctor's receptionist claims that happened when she got pregnant early last year. When she refused to have the abortion, according to her lawsuit, the doctor fired her.
Christina Garcia, now 18, was hired as an $11-an-hour receptionist at ID Doctors in Bedford, Texas, in August 2010, the lawsuit states. Seven months later, she claims that she told the doctor, Meenakshi Prabhakar, that she was pregnant, Courthouse News reports.
Prabhakar, an infectious disease specialist who's been licensed in Texas since 1997, allegedly told Garcia that her pregnancy "wasn't a good image for him," reports CBS 11. "I was very upset," she said. "I started crying."
The doctor allegedly told her that she would need to get an abortion to keep her job, and that he would pay for it, along with her college expenses and any counseling that she needed, if she would start taking birth control pills.
Garcia says she refused, and four days later was fired. With a right to sue letter from The Texas Workforce Commission, Garcia has filed suit in Dallas County against Prabhakar and his practice, requesting back pay, front pay, reinstatement of her job, attorney's fees, as well as compensation for mental anguish, inconvenience and loss of enjoyment of life.
Last week, Nalini Samuel, an employee in Prabhakar's office, emailed the Dallas Observer that the allegations were false, and it was a "shakedown to get money."
"Ask her about her criminal record," Samuel writes, and then notes that Prabhakar is anti-abortion.
Prabhakar's attorney Brian C. Newby told CBS 11 in a statement that the lawsuit is "fabricated and frivolous" and that his clients "have not discriminated against or wrongfully terminated this former employee or any other employee."
Garcia's attorney, W.D. Materson, says that most cases settle but "this one is kind of out of the ordinary." He referred AOL Jobs to Garcia's mother, who was the office manager at the clinic at the time but quit four days after her daughter was fired, according to CBS 11. She didn't respond to a request for comment.
Earlier this month, another young woman, Abigail Shomo, filed suit, claiming that she was fired for refusing to get an abortion. The 20-year-old waitress said that she was impregnated by her 17-year-old boss, Leopoldo Aguirre, and that Aguirre's father, the president of the restaurant company, terminated her when she was four months along, saying that customers preferred "a slim young waitress."
Aguirre's attorney claimed the waitress' story was fantasy: She wasn't fired, she quit, and the Aguirres are anti-abortion anyway, and would never have pressured an employee to abort a child.
Shomo's pregnancy-discrimination suit hit a more technical snag, however. The federal law it was based on, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, only applies to companies that employ 15 or more people, and it was unclear that the restaurant company met that criteria.
Garcia, on the other hand, isn't suing under the federal civil rights law. She filed a wrongful termination lawsuit in Texas state court, seeking a jury trial.
Under Texas labor law, Garcia could receive up to $50,000 in compensatory damages. Her daughter is now 9 months old.
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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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