Anti-choice House Democrat covers up firing pregnant staffer who asked for maternity leave and had a stillbirth

Anti-choice House Democrat covers up firing pregnant staffer who asked for maternity leave and had a stillbirth
United States Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) (House of Representatives biography).

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX), an anti-abortion Texas Democrat, fired his acting chief of staff in 2018 after she requested maternity leave -- during a pregnancy that resulted in a stillbirth.

Then, after the fact, the congressman allegedly attempted to coerce his staffers to fabricate poor job performance reviews to justify the dismissal.

Those are the explosive accusations included in a Jezebel report out today.

Former Cuellar staffer Kristie Small had recently signed onto the Texas congressman's staff in August 2018 when she told the congressman that she was pregnant. The congressman's response to her initial request for maternity leave was they would "need to talk about" it; he cited a 90-day probationary period for all new hires.

But according to Small via Jezebel, no such condition of employment was contained in her employment agreement or the employee handbook.

"Cuellar never approved her parental leave and, on October 16, he fired her over the phone, citing poor job performance, while she was in her third trimester. About two weeks later, Small delivered her baby at 30 weeks pregnant. It was a stillbirth," Jezebel reports.

Small sued Cuellar’s office in May 2019 alleging both sex and pregnancy discrimination under federal law.

But Cuellar’s office tried to dismiss the lawsuit and submitted disparaging letters from Small’s colleagues about her job performance as justification. According to court documents reviewed by Jezebel, "Cuellar himself requested staffers write these letters after he fired Small, and at least five were dated after Small filed her lawsuit."

Federal judge Trevor N. McFadden denied Cuellar's motion to dismiss the case and wrote that the congressman "solicited written statements from his staffers about Small’s performance after he fired her…And the staffers provided their statements after Small filed this action in May 2019. Perhaps Cuellar was simply looking for corroboration of Small’s poor performance, but a jury might also see this as an attempt to collect post hoc justifications.”

Cuellar faces a runoff in a primary election on May 24 against a progressive immigration attorney, Jessica Cisneros. She has asked for Democratic leadership to rescind its support of Cuellar and has been endorsed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Planned Parenthood Action Fund and NARAL Pro-Choice America.

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