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Bartender says exotic club demoted her because she was pregnant

By Shanna Schwarze, HLN Prime News Producer
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Pregnancy discrimination?
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jennifer Paviglianiti says boss reduced hours, put her on cashier because of pregnancy
  • In EEOC complaint, Paviglianiti, 29, says she is making less money because of demotion
  • "Maybe [customers] don't go there because the bartender is pregnant," boss says in recording
  • Boss' attorney says her job duties were adjusted to accommodate her pregnancy
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(CNN) -- A pregnant bartender says she is fighting to keep her job at a gentlemen's club in New York.

Jennifer Paviglianiti, of Centereach, N.Y., claims her employer, Café Royale, discriminated against her because of her pregnancy. She filed a claim with the EEOC earlier this month.

Paviglianiti says she feared how her boss would react to her pregnancy and wanted to wait a few months to tell him. However, John Doxey found out before she could tell him, and that's when Paviglianiti claims her job became threatened.

Up until she became pregnant, the 29-year-old says she had been one of the club's most popular bartenders. Read the complaint

She says she "bonused 9 times" since August and it was only toward the end of her pregnancy that she asked for different hours.

Due to the tough economy, Paviglianiti says she needed this specific bartending job and feared she'd soon be out of work. To protect herself, she decided to secretly record her boss on tape.

On those recordings Doxey can be heard saying, "Customers don't wanna come in and see a pregnant woman behind the bar!" These recordings were also submitted in her EEOC discrimination claim.

In other recordings, Doxey is heard suggesting that Paviglianiti's appearance is hurting business. "Maybe they don't go there because the bartender is pregnant and doesn't look sexy."

Workplace attorney Robin Bond said it's within Doxey's right to do this if employees were informed that they had to maintain a specific "sexy look" to qualify for the job.

In this case, that means Paviglianiti would have had to be hired as a "model and a bartender" and get a written agreement to this -- as is done in the casino industry, Bond said on HLN Prime News with Mike Galanos.

When asked by Galanos if she signed any paperwork of that sort, Paviglianiti said, "not at all ... nothing."

Paviglianiti was taken off the bartending schedule for a few weeks, during which she hired an attorney. She later returned to the club as a cashier but claims she made much less than she did as a bartender.

However, Doxey's attorney says this proves she was never fired and her job duties were only adjusted to accommodate her pregnancy.

"My client declines to comment on pending legal action except to say it considers that Ms. Paviglianiti allegations are without merit," attorney Robert F. Milman said in a statement. "Ms. Paviglianiti was not terminated from her employment, she presently is on maternity leave and she has the right to return to work upon the conclusion of her leave."

Paviglianiti is due to have a baby girl this week.

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