Maternity Store Sued for Pregnancy Discrimination After Employee Fired

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 30, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Maternity Store Sued for Pregnancy Discrimination After Employee Fired

by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 30, 2003

Philadelphia, PA ( — Cynthia Papageorge, who was formerly a district manager at the Philadelphia-based maternity clothes retailer Mother’s Work Inc., has filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging that company officials fired her and other employees because of their pregnancies.

In the suit, which is being heard in U.S. District Court in Boston, Papageorge says that Frank Mullay, a vice president of the company, told her that she "wasn’t able to handle [her] position ‘in [her] state’" and "moved quickly" to fire her after visiting her in October 1999 during her 37th week of pregnancy.

Papageorge is seeking unspecified damages.

Mother’s Work Inc. which operates 900 stores nationwide, including A Pea in the Pod, Mimi Maternity, iMaternity, and Motherhood Maternity.

In addition, Jan Dowe, who was Papageorge’s boss at the time, in an affidavit said that Mullay told her to fire Papageorge while she was on maternity leave. Dowe refused to fire her after company personnel officials told her that dismissing Papageorge because of her pregnancy was illegal, according to the affidavit.

According to the lawsuit, Dowe was then fired after being told her job performance was "subpar," and Papageorge was fired after requesting medical leave for a shoulder injury.

Three other pregnancy discrimination lawsuits have been filed against Mothers Work, with two being settled out of court and one being dismissed.

One of the suits was filed by Dowe against Mothers Work, Mullay, and Rebecca and Dan Mathias. Rebecca started the company in 1982 when she was pregnant with her first child. Dan is her husband. The suit was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.

Mark Itzkowitz, Papageorge’s attorney, told the Boston Globe, "It seems that pregnant women are subject to termination by virtue of their pregnancy. That position was made known in meetings with managers at Mothers Work. The other women were terminated for the same reason."

Sheryl Rothrogers, vice president of marketing at Mothers Work, said the allegations were "as far from the truth as possible," adding, "We’re a company founded by a pregnant woman and we’re an organization of women."

According to Rothrogers, the company has policies in place to "affirmatively and proactively help [the] diverse workplace balance family and work." Rothrogers said that Mothers Work "believe[s] the suit is without merit and will be appropriately and successfully defended."

Serrin Foster, President of Feminists for Life, was surprised at the irony of a maternity clothing company potentially engaging in pregnancy discrimination.

"It is mind blowing to think that a company named Mothers Work that profits from selling apparel to pregnant women would terminate [women’s employment] because of their maternity," Foster told "I don’t think this will play well with their customers."

Papageorge had been a manager at stores in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.