Montana Paper Must Pay $142,000 for Firing Pregnant Woman

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The Montana Standard and its parent company, Lee Enterprises Inc., were ordered to pay almost $142,000 to a former employee who was fired because she was pregnant, according to a state Department of Labor and Industry decision.

Kathy Chebul was a sales representative at the Butte newspaper for 11 years before she was fired in August 2005, just weeks before she was due to give birth, documents submitted in the case show and her attorney said.

Chebul had been on leave for health reasons related to her pregnancy during the summer of 2005, said her attorney, Tom Singer. She was fired two days after her leave expired and after a doctor advised against her returning to work, Singer said.

The newspaper later acknowledged the firing was illegal and that it discriminated against Chebul, the decision says. In March, the Department of Labor ordered the newspaper and Lee Enterprises to pay Chebul up to $109,821 in lost earnings, $12,000 in damages and $20,000 for emotional distress.

Standard Publisher Janet Taylor, who came to the paper in 2006, declined to comment. Lee Enterprises chief legal officer Karen Guest also declined to comment, citing a related claim pending before the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

After her firing, Chebul turned down two job offers from the Standard that promised less money than her previous post, according to the decision. She now runs a daycare in Butte, Singer said.

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