New York Attorney General Announces Settlement Reached in Pregnancy Discrimination and Harassment Lawsuit Against Syracuse Mortuary School
New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman recently announced that his office has settled a sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination lawsuit filed against a Syracuse mortuary school and its president in 2011. As part of the settlement, the Simmons Institute of Funeral Services and Maurice Wightman agreed to pay restitution to a number of former instructors and students who filed complaints against the school and to implement reforms designed to ensure future harassment and discrimination do not occur. Additionally, both the school and Wightman agreed to refrain from engaging in any sort of retaliation against the women who filed complaints against the institution and to immediately report any future harassment or discrimination allegations to the Office of the Attorney General.
According to the lawsuit, Wightman made sexual comments and inappropriately touched female students. He also allegedly refused to allow both pregnant students and faculty to engage in certain activities despite doctor approval. Ironically, Wightman is reportedly the private for-profit school's designated contact for all discrimination and harassment complaints.
In New York, discrimination on the basis of a woman's pregnancy constitutes unlawful sex discrimination. Title IX of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits any educational institution that receives federal funds from engaging in sex discrimination in education. Additionally, both New York and federal law require employers and educators to refrain from engaging in pregnancy discrimination.