Ex-DFW biologist files pregnancy discrimination suit


A former biologist of the Department of Lands and Natural Resources Division of Fish and Wildlife is suing DLNR and DFW officials in federal court for allegedly discriminating against her due to her pregnancy.

Dr. Anne M. Orlando is suing DFW, DLNR Secretary Anthony Benavente, DFW director Manuel Pangelinan, and former DFW acting director Mike Tenorio, claiming violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: discrimination, retaliation, and breach of contract.

Orlando, through counsel Rene C. Holmes, wants to be paid her earned and unpaid salary, leave time, repatriation costs, damages for medical fees, lost or damaged household goods, attorney’s fees, and court costs.

As of press time yesterday, Saipan Tribune was still trying to get comments from the defendants.

DFW hired Orlando on Feb. 9, 2015 as a wildlife biologist supervisor. DFW renewed her contract for Oct. 1, 2016, through Sept. 30, 2017.

According to Holmes in the complaint filed in court last Friday, Orlando told Pangelinan in February 2016 that she was pregnant, after which Pangelinan allegedly immediately removed Orlando from fieldwork. Orlando objected to this.

In May 2016, Holmes said, Orlando informed Pangelinan that in August 2016 she had to go to California because of her pregnancy. Orlando asked for accommodation to do her work while in California, but Pangelinan allegedly denied the request.

In July 2016, Pangelinan allegedly approved Orlando to work limited hours during her time in California.

On Aug. 2, 2016, Orlando flew to California to be near the hospital. She submitted time sheets and leave forms to defendants.

Holmes said defendants failed to pay Orlando in a timely manner in some instances and failed to pay her altogether in others.

Orlando repeatedly inquired about her pay, but they allegedly failed to respond.

The biologist gave birth on Sept. 28, 2016.

Holmes said the defendants failed to pay all salary or wages, annual leave, sick leave, donated sick leave, advance leave, and holidays and maternity leave owed her.

She repeatedly urged defendants to pay her what she was owed in order to have funds available to purchase her return ticket to Saipan.

On Nov. 13, 2016, Orlando emailed Pangelinan and another DFW staff that she needed to extend her sick leave because she needed to have surgery.

Defendants allegedly continued to fail to communicate with Orlando.

On Nov. 23, 2016, Orlando underwent surgery in California. On Jan. 10, 2017, she underwent another surgery.

As of January 2017, Holmes said, defendants owed Orlando pay for hours worked, sick leave, annual leave, donated sick leave, advance leave, paid holidays, maternity leave and five months of housing allowance.

On Jan. 30, 2017, Orlando received payments for her maternity leave and one month’s housing allowance.

Holmes said Orlando was not aware that defendants stopped paying the premiums for her health insurance in January 2017.

Holmes said due to defendants’ failure to pay health insurance premiums, Orlando’s medical expenses were not covered by health insurance.

The lawyer said Orlando had told defendants about a planned surgery for January 2017, the same month they stopped paying her health insurance.

On April 18, 2017, Orlando filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In April 2017, Pangelinan was allegedly removed from her position at DFW and Tenorio was installed as acting director of DFW.

In April 2017, Holmes said, Orlando provided information about Pangelinan’s discriminatory practices to the person within the CNMI government investigating Pangelinan.

Holmes said the defendants constructively terminated Orlando by failing to pay her salary, wages and/or leave time and benefits by discriminating against her based upon her pregnancy.

Orlando resigned on May 23, 2017.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

Related Posts

Disclaimer: Comments are moderated. They will not appear immediately or even on the same day. Comments should be related to the topic. Off-topic comments would be deleted. Profanities are not allowed. Comments that are potentially libelous, inflammatory, or slanderous would be deleted.