Beware the ominous-sounding “coupon watch list” – especially if you’re pregnant. That’s the warning coming from a Pennsylvania woman who was dismissed from her job as an Olive Garden server, after losing a customer’s coupon.

30-year-old Courtnee Dean of Philadelphia has filed a discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, against her former employer. She says she was fired under the pretext of misplacing a coupon, but claims the real reason was that she was pregnant.

In September 2014, Dean said she and at least two co-workers were placed on what was called a “coupon watch list,” even though she never had any coupon-related issues during her decade working at Olive Garden.

But a month later, Dean writes in her complaint, “I realized that I had lost a coupon a customer had given me. This was the first time I had ever lost a coupon and I immediately notified my manager of this.” She says she offered to cover the cost of the lost coupon out of her own pocket, but her manager declined “and did not inform me of any disciplinary action that would be taken.” Therefore, she writes, “I assumed this would not become a big issue.”

But it did. The next time she showed up for work, she was told to get in touch with the General Manager, who then fired her.

Normally, Dean’s complaint reads, “employees who lose a coupon are given the opportunity to either pay for the coupon or to be written up. Furthermore, one is normally given three write-ups before being fired for any reason.”


Her two co-workers who were also on the “coupon watch list” were not fired. They were also not pregnant. But Dean was, and she believes that’s the reason she was really dismissed. The first time she had a baby, she says, she lost her seniority. The second time, she claims, management used her pregnancy as an excuse to get rid of her.

Dean’s allegations raise plenty of questions. But so far, they’ve gone unanswered. Neither Olive Garden owner Darden Restaurants nor Dean’s attorneys have responded to Coupons in the News‘ requests for comment.

So Darden has not explained exactly what the “coupon watch list” was, why Dean was put on it, and whether her store had any problems or concerns about servers accidentally – or purposely – losing coupons, charging customers full price and keeping the value of the coupons for themselves.

And Dean has not explained in detail why she believes her pregnancy was the real reason for her dismissal. Did her managers make disparaging remarks about her pregnancy, was there a culture of discrimination at the restaurant, or was it just that she didn’t think misplacing a coupon was a fireable offense, so it must have been because she was pregnant?

That’s the argument her attorneys are going with. “It is very troubling that after a long and satisfactory employment relationship, Olive Garden chose to fire Ms. Dean so soon after learning that she was pregnant,” one of Dean’s attorneys, Equal Rights Advocates Legal Director Jennifer Reisch, said in a statement.

“We hope Darden implements the changes necessary to ensure pregnancy discrimination doesn’t happen to any other women,” added a representative for the restaurant workers’ advocacy organization, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United.

Advocates for the rights of pregnant workers will have to watch and wait for an outcome, as the two sides in this case fight it out. But there’s a lesson in here for coupon users, too. If you visit an Olive Garden and use a coupon, be sure to check your receipt and make sure it came off. If not, your server just might end up on that “coupon watch list” – or worse.

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