An employer who discriminates against an employee because of her pregnancy can be held liable for sex discrimination under the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 (the “Act”).

The Oklahoma-based childcare company Kids R Us LLC recently paid $75,000 to settle a pregnancy bias suit brought by the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission (“EECO”).

According to the EEOC complaint, Shawna Capps, an assistant director at the company’s Choctaw, Oklahoma facility, experienced unlawful discrimination after notifying management that she was pregnant in March of 2010.  Company owners had previously told Capps that they planned to promote her to be the director of a new facility.

Upon learning of the pregnancy, however, the owners demoted Capps to the position of cook, reduced her hours and transferred her to a facility far from her home, according to the complaint.  An owner told Capps that the primary reason for the changes was because she “decided to get pregnant,” the complaint alleged.

Though Capps eventually resigned, the complaint alleges that she was “constructively fired,” meaning Capps’s working conditions were made so unpleasant that the company effectively fired her.

In addition, the company allegedly fired Capps’s sister and cousin for sticking up for her.

The company’s actions, the complaint alleged, constituted impermissible discrimination and retaliation.  Title VII of the Act forbids discrimination on the basis of sex, which includes pregnancy discrimination.

The EEOC filed its suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton signed a consent decree requiring the company to pay $75,000 to the three employees ($25,000 each) and to institute new training and notice procedures regarding anti-pregnancy discrimination.