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Female janitor sues Ikea cleaning subcontractor for sex and pregnancy discrimination, other state and federal claims

The San Francisco-based Legal Aid Society–Employment Law Center (LAS-ELC) has filed a pregnancy discrimination suit against Excel Building Services, a janitorial services company based in Pleasanton, California, that contracts nationwide with major retail stores, including Ikea and Target. The suit was filed in the Northern District of California on behalf of Susana Macías, a janitor who worked for Excel at an Ikdea store in Emerywille, California. The complaint alleges the company discriminated against Macías on the basis of sex and pregnancy, violated federal and state family leave laws, and refused to provide legally required accommodations. In addition, Excel failed to pay Macías overtime wages for more than two years, even though she typically worked twelve or more hours per day.

An Excel employee for more than five years, Macías had been promoted to janitorial supervisor. In March 2010, however, she was fired after she took maternity leave and replaced with a new male supervisor. According to the complaint, Macias was told that “women don’t work as well after having babies.”

Lori Rifkin, an LAS-ELC attorney, says the public interest agency has received an alarming number of complaints in recent months from women working as janitors who were fired when they tried to take legally protected maternity leave. In all cases, the women are Latina and monolingual or primarily Spanish speakers. “Janitorial companies are abusing this particularly vulnerable group of workers, who typically have limited access to legal services,” Rifkin said. “These employers appear to be operating with a sense of impunity, believing they can routinely fire women janitors who become pregnant, and nobody will notice.”