A Readfield woman on Thursday sued a New Jersey company that rescinded a job offer after assuming that she could not attend an out-of-state training session because she was breastfeeding her baby.
Siera Boucher, 30, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Bangor after the Maine Human Rights Commission determined there were reasonable grounds to find that she had been discriminated against on the basis of sex.
Boucher, a licensed respiratory therapist, in June 2019 applied for a job in Portland with Community Surgical Supply of Toms River, Inc., which has offices in Maine. She was offered a job on June 24 but the company rescinded the offer three days later, according to Boucher’s complaint. The company rescinded the offer after she asked about a sign-on bonus, requested a higher pay rate than the one offered and sought an accommodation for breastfeeding.
She is seeking back pay and benefits, compensatory and punitive damages and an injunction that, if granted, would force the company to admit to discrimination and take steps to provide effective civil rights training to its employees.
A representative of the medical supply company did not immediately return a request for comment on the lawsuit Thursday.
After Boucher accepted the job, the firm told Boucher that she had to attend a week-long training in Connecticut, the complaint said. Because Boucher was breastfeeding her 10-month-old baby, she asked about an accommodation for the training.
The next day, the company took back its job offer without explanation, Boucher alleged.
“I was excited to go work for CSS,” Boucher said Thursday through her attorneys, Carol J. Garvan and Valerie Z. Wicks of Augusta. “I just had a few questions about attending the one-week training while continuing to feed my baby. The new job with CSS was a great opportunity for me and my family and we were committed to making it work, including attending the one-week training in Connecticut. But CSS never gave me the chance.”
The company told the Maine Human Rights Commission investigator that the training was mandatory. At the training, the company’s vendor representatives were to train employees on using various products, the investigator’s report said.
“The event could not be moved or rescheduled, and it would not have been possible for [Boucher] to attend via videoconference,” the investigator said of the company’s reasons for rescinding the job offer.
The commission found that the company discriminated and retaliated against Bouchard because of her “pregnancy-related condition” and failed to give a non-discriminatory reason for its action.
Wicks said that Boucher’s experience was not unusual.
“What CSS did to Ms. Boucher represents the tip of the iceberg of systemic sex discrimination against women in the workplace,” the lawyer said. “Research shows that women often face a major penalty with their employer for trying to negotiate the terms of a job offer, while men who negotiate pay no serious price for doing the exact same thing.”