Victim in pregnancy discrimination speaks exclusively to 3TVPosted: Updated:
PEORIA, Ariz -- Keli Kozup said she was cheated out of money because men didn't want to look at a pregnant bartender.
Now Kozup is talking exclusively to 3TV. She reveals what she endured at the Sandbar Mexican Grill in Peoria and why she chose to fight back.
"I was mad. There was days I cried," said Kozup.
When Kozup became pregnant in February 2008, the last thing she expected to feel was discriminated at her job. The then 24-year-old had been a bartender and server at Sandbar Mexican Grill in Peoria for nearly a year.
"Around that time it became football season and I was told from a source that they didn't want pregnant girls on Sunday shifts because there was actually three pregnant girls during that time. So we were all taken off Sundays," explained Kozup
Those Sunday shifts had become a critical source of income for Kozup.
"I had a lot of regulars on Sundays. So at least every Sunday, I'd have one regular who would come in and tip me a hundred dollars," Kozup remarked.
Determined to find out why her schedule suddenly changed, she approached her bosses.
"I actually went into the office, the management office and I was blown off. I was kind of pushed aside, 'Oh I'll be right out. I'm too busy for you,'" Kozup remembered.
Christopher Houk represents the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
"They felt that customers did not want to see pregnant women while they watched Sunday football," Houk stated.
"Like it's a turn off, like it's disturbing?" asked 3TV's Patti Kirkpatrick.
"Correct," replied Houk.
Frustrated but not sure what she could do, Kozup worked through the remainder of her pregnancy.
But since losing the lucrative Sunday shift, she couldn't afford to take two months for maternity leave.
"I kept a journal of my frustration and my heartache, my dilemmas that I had. I couldn't save enough money. I had to go back to work exactly one month after my son was born," Kozup revealed.
With the support and encouragement of her parents, Kozup filed a complaint with the EEOC against
West Sand LLC, owner of Sandbar Mexican Grill.
"How many other girls don't do anything about it? How many other pregnant ladies are there out there that just 'okay, I guess it's one less shift.?' And it could be any industry but it was a real eye-opener," Kozup said.
"How pervasive do you think it is out there in the workplace?" Kirkpatrick asked.
"It happens more often than it should," Houk replied.
According to a recent EEOC study, the number of pregnancy related discrimination cases has increased 35 percent in the last decade. Just last month, Arizona awarded Kozup $15,000.
Kozup's son, Camen, is now 4 and she's happily employed at another Valley restaurant. Now she hopes she can help other women.
"Know that there are people to help them. And not just let it go. Take a stand. Do something," Kozup said.
Sandbar released a statement saying in part, "We absolutely reject an assertions of wrongdoing. We have settled this matter only to stem the financially draining attacked lobbed by the EEOC."
Sandbar did agree to provide anti-discrimination training at their Peoria location.