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Lawsuit alleges discrimination against pregnant guards on Army bases

TOPEKA, Kan. _ A federal agency sued a New Mexico company Thursday in federal court, alleging the firm discriminated against pregnant employees it had hired as security guards on Army bases, including Fort Riley in Kansas.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said the victims included two female employees each at forts Riley, Stewart in Georgia, Campbell in Kentucky and Hood in Texas. The EEOC also sued on behalf of all women in a similar situation.

By law, the commission automatically can file a class action lawsuit, which is expected to be heard by a jury in Wichita.

A spokesman for the company, Akal Security Inc., did not return a telephone message.

The EEOC alleges that the company forced the women to take leaves of absence when they became pregnant, then fired them. The commission said that violates federal law. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., seeks an undisclosed amount of damages from Akal.

The suit was filed on behalf of Melissa Bell, Sahra Carter, Makeesha Delaney, Angela Garcia, Vernica Hutto, Rebecca Martinez, Elizabeth Parker, Tamara Ransom, Shannon Smith and unnamed others.

According to the court filing, Akal allegedly has engaged in unlawful employment practices at Army bases nationwide since at least Feb. 18, 1995.

"They did seem to have a pervasive problem with pregnancy discrimination. They used every means available to get them out," said Anne Gusewelle, the EEOC attorney handling the lawsuit.

The EEOC alleges that the firm gave the female employees less than favorable terms and conditions of employment because of their pregnancies and retaliated against Martinez for complaining about the discrimination.

She said the EEOC investigated the initial complaints by the women and determined that there was reason to believe the women had faced discriminated. The agency sought a voluntary settlement with Akal, but was unable to reach one, leading to filing of Thursday's lawsuit.

Last year, Akal settled a lawsuit with the Department of Justice over allegations it violated terms of a contract to provide trained security guards at eight Army installations, including Fort Riley. Akal agreed to pay $18 Million for failing to provide enough guards and give them sufficient training under a 2003 contract.

That lawsuit was also filed by guards hired by Akal at Fort Riley.

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The case is Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Akal Security Inc., No. 08-1274-JTM-KMH.

On the Net:

EEOC: http://www.eeoc.gov

U.S. District Court: http://www.ksd.uscourts.gov/

Akal Security Inc.: http://www.akalsecurity.com

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