St. Louis Record

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Vitamin Cottage Natural Food Markets seeks to remove discrimination suit to federal court


By Charmaine Little | Sep 14, 2018

KANSAS CITY – A local food market filed a notice of removal with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri in the Western Division on Sept. 6 in a case filed by a former employee over allegations of gender discrimination and retaliation.

Defendant Vitamin Cottage Natural Food Markets, also known as Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage, filed the notice of removal to the federal district court after a former dairy/frozen manager, Amanda Taylor, filed an initial discrimination claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Missouri Commission on Human Rights in May 2017.

Vitamin Cottage said while Taylor filed a lawsuit in Jackson County Circuit Court in July and added Anthony Thebeau and Ernest Phillips in her second complaint, the current U.S. District court has diversity jurisdiction.

It pointed out Taylor said she resides in Missouri while the company’s headquarters is in Colorado. It added while Taylor didn’t say where Thebeau and Phillips live, she listed them in her claims she filed under the Missouri Human Rights Act. That regulation does not allow for “a private right of action against individuals,” as of August 2017, Vitamin Cottage added.

It also said that removal to the current court is proper venue considering the federal district court includes the Jackson County Circuit Court where Taylor filed the state action.

Taylor detailed in her first charge that roughly three years after being hired as a produce manager, she was “forced into the position” of a dairy/frozen manager due to being pregnant. She alleges she received a write-up a little more than a month after she submitted a complaint about her new position. She alleges company violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 when it forced her to take the new position because of her gender and pregnancy.

As a result of her complaint, the MCHR gave her a notice of right to sue and said she had 90 days to do so. Taylor failed to sue within those 90 days.

She submitted a new charge of discrimination with the MCHR and EEOC in November 2017. In her second claim, she alleged the company retaliated against her even more when she returned from pregnancy leave when it took away her late-start accommodations that she previously had, and told her following a three-week transition, she would only be scheduled as needed. She was given another notice of right to sue for her second complaint, and sued within the 90 days in the state court.

The defendant then responded with the notice of removal.

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