For nearly 16 months, Karolina Wilson worked as a personal assistant for Fox TV host Laura Ingraham. Wilson handled Ingraham’s scheduling, oversaw her travel arrangements, responded to emails and even worked with Ingraham’s household staff.
Her job, she said, kept her in constant contact with Ingraham via phone or email, sometimes seven days a week and sometimes late into the night or early morning.
“I think things were going very well. Laura is a very demanding person who is not easily satisfied, but I always satisfied her and she was always happy with my work. She never complained to me about anything. I was tired. It was a lot, but I loved that kind of work. That’s why I do it,” Wilson said in an interview.
Then in March 2017, Wilson, now 28, announced that she was pregnant with her first child. And that, according to a lawsuit filed in D.C. Superior Court in February, is when things began to become difficult, with the ultimate result that she lost her job.
Wilson is suing Ingraham and her company, Ingraham Media Group, alleging pregnancy discrimination under the District’s Protecting Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and its Family and Medical Leave Act.
Ingraham, through her attorney, has denied the allegations.
Wilson alleges that the conservative talk-show host became hostile toward her once she became pregnant and then fired her on her first day back from maternity leave. Ingraham allowed Wilson to remain with the company for about three weeks so Wilson could eventually collect unemployment insurance. During that time, Wilson alleges, the company refused to set up a private space for her to pump breast milk at the office in Northwest Washington, and she had to go to her car in a nearby garage.
“I had no lunch breaks. I pumped when I found a minute, here and there, making sure I wasn’t interfering with anything that was on the schedule,” Wilson said.
Ingraham, a mother of three, declined to comment on the lawsuit. But Ingraham’s attorney, Betty S.W. Graumlich, said in an emailed statement that “Ms. Wilson’s claims are wholly without merit as our filed defenses to the Complaint make abundantly clear. We look forward to litigating this case vigorously.”
According to recent court filings from Ingraham, she and her company reject Wilson’s statements that her work before her pregnancy was “extremely efficient.” They also said it is not true that Ingraham became hostile toward Wilson after learning of her then-assistant’s pregnancy.
In court papers, Ingraham said she did not know Wilson needed a place to pump breast milk. Ingraham, the filing states, denies “that they were aware that [Wilson] needed a breast-feeding accommodation or a place to pump and therefore deny the allegations made.”
Ingraham’s attorney filed a motion to dismiss the claim that Ingraham’s company violated the Family and Medical Leave Act, arguing instead that Wilson was not eligible because, in part, Ingraham’s company had fewer than 20 employees. A hearing is scheduled May 11 in front of Judge John M. Mott of the D.C. Superior Court.
Wilson also alleges in the lawsuit that Ingraham initially offered only one week of maternity leave. Wilson said she told the company that she needed more time and that Ingraham offered her three weeks. Ingraham’s company then allowed her to remain off for eight weeks, on condition, Wilson said, that she still work from home.
The lawsuit alleges that Wilson “felt pressured to commit to working from home only two or three weeks after the birth of her child,” her attorneys, Linda Correia and Lauren Khouri, wrote.
Wilson worked for Ingraham until going into labor on Aug. 6, 2017, two weeks earlier than her due date. According to the lawsuit, on that date, Wilson notified Ingraham’s nanny that she was going to the hospital and asked the nanny to alert Ingraham. The lawsuit alleges that Ingraham sent Wilson a text that morning “wishing her luck” and then text messages with various assignments.
According to the lawsuit, the texts read, in part: “Pls just have someone take over the nanny interviews which are critical. Just make sure [the nanny] has everything. Need that exercise equip person to come fix etc.”
Wilson returned to work on Oct. 9, 2017. A day later, the chief executive of Ingraham’s company called Wilson into his office and told her that she was fired and that the person who filled in during her maternity leave would take over, according to the lawsuit.
Ingraham allowed Wilson to work through Oct. 31.
“I was treated unfairly. I hope this never happens again. I think pregnancy and bringing a child into this world is a beautiful thing. It shouldn’t be tarnished with hostility,” Wilson said.