LOWER EAST SIDE — The Doughnut Plant fired a supervisor while she was on maternity leave after twice demoting her and urging her to stay home with her baby, according to a lawsuit filed last week.
Mekhala Sofsky, a 30-year-old Ridgewood resident, is suing the well-known bakery for discriminating against her because of her pregnancy. It demoted her and cut her pay substantially after she told her supervisors she was pregnant, according to court papers.
Sofsky wants to be rehired and receive back pay to help her raise her daughter Milana, who is now 2, as well as compensation for "emotional and physical damages," according to the lawsuit filed on Dec. 19 in Manhattan Supreme Court.
“Up until I told them [that I was pregnant] I had been doing really well. No complaints, no issues whatsoever and then basically after I told them it started going south," Sofsky said.
"Nothing in my behavior changed except for being pregnant and having to deal with things differently."
When Sofsky told her bosses she was pregnant in July 2012, she had been working at Doughnut Plant for more than a year and had recently been promoted to personnel manager, overseeing the shop's Chelsea and Lower East Side locations, the lawsuit said.
But when she told Doughnut Plant owner Mark Israel that she was expecting, his immediate response "was that he did not think Sofsky would want to come back to work after having her baby," according to the lawsuit.
Sofsky told him that she would return to work after giving birth, but "Israel replied that she should really stay home with her baby,” the suit said.
"When he said that it kind of caught me off guard," Sofsky said, explaining that she expected him to react more positively. "It was a blow I wasn’t expecting at all.”
A month later, Sofsky told her bosses she would not be able to continue working 40 hours a week because of morning sickness, according to court papers.
That same month, the lawsuit says, Sofsky was demoted from a salaried employee to an hourly one and was told that she would only manage the Chelsea store, not the one on Grand Street. Her supervisors said they were not satisfied with her work performance, according to the lawsuit.
Over the next few months, her bosses unfairly blamed her for not fulfilling duties that were no longer her responsibility or for incidents that were out of her control, the lawsuit alleges.
In one case, according to the lawsuit, Chief Operating Officer KC Salazar reprimanded Sofsky because there were insufficient supplies at the Grand Street location, even though she was no longer responsible for the store because of her demotion.
When Sofsky asked for guidance about her new role, company higher-ups did not respond, the lawsuit said.
“I was begging them to tell me what they wanted from me, what they needed from me. They were not communicating with me at all," she said.
Then, on Dec. 21, 2012, Salazar demoted Sofsky once again from a manager to a shift supervisor — less than two weeks before she began her maternity leave on Jan. 3, 2013, according to the lawsuit.
Doughnut Plant also cut her pay from $50,000 a year to $14 per hour, the lawsuit says. The company reduced her yearly bonus from $1,000 to $250 and eliminated her vacation and sick time, “effective [on] the first day of her maternity leave,” according to court documents.
The company finally fired Sofsky on April 10, 2013, days after her attorney sent a letter asking Doughnut Plant to end its “discriminatory and retaliatory conduct” against Sofsky, according to the lawsuit.
Doughnut Plant denied the discrimination charges in a statement.
"Doughnut Plant is a fair and flexible employer with a strong track record of family friendly policies," the bakery said.
"We proudly embrace diversity, adhere to both the spirit and the letter of the law with regard to pregnant women, and offer paid maternity and paternity leave."
Sofsky said she just wanted the company to "do the right thing."
"They didn’t handle this the right way and the way that they handled it left me and my daughter high and dry," she said.