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This New Mom Was Quickly Fired For “Hiding” Her Bump. But She Got Payback For Her And Her Baby

Image: YouTube/CBS Denver
When Jennifer Rodriguez took a job as a legal assistant in January 2017, there was something her employers hadn’t noticed. So, after only ten days in the job, Rodriguez came clean: she was eight months pregnant. But after the law firm wasted no time firing the expectant mom, she went looking for payback for her and her baby.
Image: YouTube/CBS Denver
When the Denver, Colorado-based Bendinelli Law Firm was looking to hire a legal assistant, Rodriguez seemed like the perfect fit. Her suitability for the role was to such a degree, in fact, that they gave her the job. But there was something about the 21-year-old that hadn’t come up in the recruitment process.
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Just over a week into the job, Rodriguez felt it was time to tell the truth. She was pregnant. In fact, she felt it was obvious. Being in the third trimester – or the final three months of pregnancy – it wasn’t exactly an easy thing to hide. The legal assistant’s baby was due in about a month.
Image: Morsa Images/Getty Images
At first, Rodriguez told an associate at the firm about the pregnancy. That associate then passed the information on to a founding member of the firm. Before long, the expectant mom found her pregnancy the subject of what could be perceived as an unusual line of questioning.
Image: YouTube/CBS Denver
The young legal assistant was asked if she had experienced any problems with her pregnancy. Which is all well and good. After all, surely the firm deserved to know if the mom-to-be would need any time off for medical reasons, right? But then the questions became a little more personal.
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Rodriguez’s employers asked whether she would be keeping the baby. A bizarre question, since abortions are rarely carried out after 21 weeks, and she was 36 weeks pregnant. Or maybe the firm thought the mom-to-be might give her child up for adoption, because they then asked if she was carrying the baby for someone else.
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Whatever the reasons for asking the questions her employers did, Rodriguez couldn’t have predicted what happened next. According to the expectant mom, they fired her the very next day. After starting her job as a legal assistant on January 30, 2017, just ten days later she found herself unemployed.
Image: KDVR
“We no longer need your services,” Rodriguez told Denver’s Fox31 News in September 2018, as she recalled the exact words the law firm had used. She believed it was because she told her colleague, Julian Bendinelli, about her pregnancy. Understandably, the expectant mom wasn’t happy.
Image: KDVR
“Huge sadness. I wasn’t sure what the next step was. Just devastated really,” Rodriguez recalled. “I believe it was obvious I was eight months pregnant. Anyone could see it. But I still wanted to be clear about it and put it on the table.” The 21-year-old, however, wasn’t obligated to mention it at the interview stage.
Image: YouTube/CBS Denver
Rodriguez’s former employers, however, stated that it wasn’t the fact that she was pregnant that led to her dismissal. Rather, the law firm claimed it was that the mom-to-be hadn’t mentioned her pregnancy during the interview process. But at eight months, she’d thought the fact would be apparent.
Image: YouTube/CBS Denver
As it happens, the Bendinelli Law Firm deal specifically in personal injury claims. It wouldn’t be unreasonable, however, to expect that they’d have some grasp of other types of laws, too. Like the ones that exist to protect the employment rights of pregnant women, for example.
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As any law defender should know, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 exists to protect employees from discrimination. That means employees will be judged on performance regardless of their gender, skin color, race or religion. A Pregnancy Discrimination Act amendment to that law, made in 1978, means that expectant women are also protected.
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Rodriguez, however, knew her rights. Upon the termination of her employment with the law firm she reached out to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). She believed that she lost her job because she was pregnant. As such, the mom-to-be began legal action against her former employers to that effect.
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The case was settled in September 2018, a year after the complaint was first filed. Court papers allege that Rodriguez was let go for failing to inform her prospective employers about her pregnancy during interviews. According to the EEOC, that’s blatant discrimination and against the law.
Image: YouTube/Marco Bendinelli
Marco Bendinelli, the law firm’s proprietor, however, is adamant that Rodriguez’s pregnancy was not the reason she was fired. In an interview with Fox31, he was asked why her contract was ended so abruptly. The lawyer replied, “Job performance… and being less than forthright about her circumstances.”
Image: KDVR
Bendinelli claimed that he wasn’t able to go into specifics. He did, however, refute Rodriguez’s recollection of the events leading up to her dismissal. With the accusation leveled at him that she was questioned about keeping the baby and whether there had been any problems with the pregnancy, the lawyer flatly denied it.
Image: Twitter/Marco Bendinelli
Denver-based Fox 31 News asked if Bendinelli had any regrets in terminating the mom-to-be’s employment with the firm. He said, “Based on the consequences I faced, yes. But only based on the consequences. The characterization that we are pregnancy unfavorable is a blatant mis-characterization.”
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The law firm, however, agreed to settle the suit with a $30,000 payment to Rodriguez. Although it doesn’t get her job back, it will go some way toward the care of her now one-year-old son, Jay. The young mom feels as though she got justice in this case.
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“I really hope from [here] on that no one gets to experience what I experienced, because that was really devastating for me,” Rodriguez told Fox31 News. She is optimistic that her victory might inspire others to seek justice for themselves. Particularly in situations where they might feel discriminated against in the workplace.
Image: KDVR
Karl Tetzlaff, who represents the EEOC in Denver, was the attorney in Rodriguez’s case. He said, “Ms. Rodriguez deserves a ton of credit for coming forward. Because unfortunately these types of cases are all too common. Not enough people come to the EEOC and file charges.”

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