Wegmans sued by worker for discriminatory treatment

By Jon Campisi | Jun 25, 2013

A Montgomery County woman has filed a job discrimination lawsuit against food retailer Wegmans over claims that she received disparate treatment on the account of her ethnicity, and due to her subsequent complaints of the discriminatory actions on the part of her employer.

Maria Jesse, who resides in Souderton Borough, is suing New York-based Wegmans Food Markets and the Wegmans store in Bucks County at which she is employed over allegations that the 25-year-old Hispanic woman was treated differently than other employees.

Jesse, the suit says, first began working as a part-time overnight stocker in the frozen food department at the Warrington, Pa. Wegman’s location in the fall of 2009.

She became a full-time employee in the grocery department two months after her hiring.

The alleged discrimination began in 2010, the suit claims, when Jesse was suspended for being late, even though other similarly situated employees did not meet the same fate.

Then, after finding out she was pregnant in the summer of 2011, Jesse was allegedly put on probation by her manager after the plaintiff began experiencing a variety of health issues related to the pregnancy.

Jesse was suspended that fall, the record shows.

After voicing concern that she was being disciplined for issues similar to that of another employee, that one white and female, Jesse claims she was told her suspension would be without pay, an action she alleges was done in retaliation for complaining about the treatment she was receiving.

Jesse eventually returned back to work in March 2012, but she had to go out on disability the following month due to post partum depression, the complaint states.

She remained on leave until that summer.

In August 2012, the suit says, Jesse was told she had to return to work or she would lose her job.

The plaintiff went back on disability leave from Aug. 27, 2012 until Sept. 7 of that year, and then once again returned to her job.

Meanwhile, Jesse missed various days of working during the ensuing months due to medical appointments.

During that same time, the other aforementioned white female employee was late and missed various days of work, although that woman wasn’t disciplined in the same way as the plaintiff, the lawsuit states.

Jesse claims she was eventually denied disability leave in late October of last year.

The lawsuit contains counts of racial discrimination, hostile work environment and retaliation, with Jesse contending she was treated differently because of her race.

“Plaintiff … alleges that Defendants subjected Plaintiff to discriminatory behavior, including but not limited to differential treatment based on her Hispanic background as compared to similarly situated employees who are white,” the suit reads.

Jesse also claims that the defendants’ combined “institutional refusal to address, correct and/or to prevent said conduct, made it perfectly clear that they were accepting said conduct.”

Wegmans is accused of violating the Civil Rights Act and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

The plaintiff, who is being represented by Jenkintown, Pa. attorney Kenneth S. Saffren, seeks more than $100,000 in monetary damages, in addition to declaratory relief, interest, costs and attorney’s fees.

The lawsuit was filed June 19 at the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia.

The federal case number is 2:13-cv-03463-GP.

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