From pv magazine USA
An ex-employee has filed a lawsuit against New Jersey-based Momentum Solar, based on allegations of pregnancy discrimination, retaliation, and unlawful failure to accommodate – in violation of the U.S. Civil Rights Act.
The plaintiff, Jessica Adams, has accused Momentum Solar of firing her once the company found out about her high-risk pregnancy. According to the the lawsuit, the pregnancy came with “a high probability of miscarriage and the pregnancy would cause plaintiff to suffer acute physical impairments.”
Adams was required to attend bi-weekly medical appointments in order to monitor her pregnancy and ensure the health of Adams and her unborn child. Adams then informed her manager, defendant James Valerioti, that she would need to make adjustments to her work schedule to accommodate the appointments.
At the time, Valerioti did not know that Adams was pregnant – only that she had to make bi-weekly medical appointments. Adams claims that due to the high-risk nature of her pregnancy, she was not comfortable announcing it until it she started showing. The scheduling flexibility was approved, as was her additional request to begin working partially from home, with no issue.
On Dec. 28, 2018, after two previous attempts to formally announce her pregnancy to Valerioti were ignored, Adams emailed Valerioti and defendant Sung Lee. She informed them about the nature of her pregnancy, and requested that accommodations be made for her pregnancy – namely, that she be allowed to work from home when needed.
That evening, Valerioti called Adams to inform her that her employment was terminated, effective immediately, over allegations that her interactions with her all-male staff, were “too aggressive” and that “the guys are afraid of you.” Valerioti further claimed she had not “done enough to support [her] team.”
In an instant, Adams lost her income and all of her health benefits.
Furthermore, in the lawsuit, Adams brings forth allegations of sexism, misogyny and sexual harassment against Momentum Solar. Her allegations include accounts from other female employees and include one incident in which Adams intervened, when a male employee was fired for telling a female coworker, “You need to be in the kitchen.”
pv magazine USA has reached out to Momentum Solar for comment, but has not received a response as of time of publication.
This is not the first, nor second, discrimination lawsuit to be filed against Momentum Solar in the last 12 months. In October, former employee Mark Venson accused the company of “engaging in systemic discrimination against black workers, fostering a racially hostile work environment and retaliating against black employees who filed discrimination complaints.” The lawsuit stemmed from multiple instances where Venson claimed that he and other black employees were subjected to racial slurs at the hands of their white coworkers.
In May of 2019, six black former Momentum Solar employees claimed that their white coworkers and managers had used racial slurs against them. When the employees attempted to address the issue with their manager, he allegedly referred to the allegations of racism as “bulls***” and mocked the employees by sending them black-skinned emojis, before ultimately sending a GIF of a group of white-hooded men, in reference to the Ku Klux Klan, with the caption, “We ready or what?”
In 2019, Momentum Solar was named one of the “Best Workplaces” in the United States by Inc. Magazine.
As for Adams, she is requesting that the court award monetary damages to compensate her for the discrimination she claims to have experienced, including economic damages, damages for emotional distress, and coverage of attorneys’ fees and legal costs. She is also asking that the court recognize that Momentum Solar violated the U.S. Peoples with Disabilities Act.
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