Marriott Settles Pregnancy Bias Lawsuit At Newport Coast Villas

A future Orange County jury won't hear the lawsuit filed by a woman who claimed officials at Marriott's Newport Coast Villas hired her for a front desk agent position in May 2013 and then concocted an illegal pretext to renege once they learned she was in the middle of pregnancy.

Patrick McNicholas, the Los Angeles-based attorney for Stephanie Snee, notified U.S. District Court Judge Josephine L. Staton on Dec. 22 that the parties have reached a settlement to resolve the 14-month-old alleged employment violations.

Terms of the deal were not announced.

Lawyers for Marriott at Payne & Fears LLP in Irvine had strenuously argued that Snee, who advised the company of her condition at the time of her hiring, lost the job by failing to timely take a mandatory drug test in compliance with reasonable business practices; her lawsuit was based on conjecture because she supposedly couldn't prove any statute-dodging plot by corporate bosses who weren't aware of her pregnant condition; and that her complaints were so fact-free that a jury should never be allowed to consider the merits.

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"Plaintiff's speculation cannot create liability under any theory," opined attorney Daniel F. Fears.

But there's little doubt what drove Marriott to the settlement table. In late November at the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse in Santa Ana, Staton rejected each of the company's arguments demanding pre-trial summary judgment. The judge ruled Snee satisfied initial legal hurdles by, for example, asserting that Marriott officials claimed to have but didn't email her a drug test letter. She also noted that the plaintiff's lawyers discovered that in 2013 and 2014 Marriott hired 76 individuals who failed to timely pass drug tests.

"There exists direct evidence of Marriott Resorts' discrimination against Snee," ruled the judge, who noted that company officials began to backtrack on the job offers seven days after making it by questioning the terms of the pregnancy and threatening to terminate her position within three months.

Staton also rejected Marriott's insistence that the plaintiff was not entitled to pursue punitive damages.

California law protects pregnant women from employment discrimination.


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