HOUSTON -

A restaurant chain is being sued, accused of laying off women because they were pregnant.

According to a discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Bayou City Wings laid off women once they reached the third month of their pregnancies.

"The policy was, and actually recorded in writing, part of the employee handbook," EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Connie Wilhite said. "It said that a female employee was mandated to go on leave after three months of pregnancy."

The EEOC said employee Maryann Castillo had a note from her doctor that indicated she could work up to her 36th week of pregnancy without restrictions.

The chief executive officer of Bayou City Wings, Charles Brian, said he laid off pregnant women because he did not want them to put their unborn children at risk. Heavy lifting and other physical labor are part of their job, he said.

According to the EEOC, the restaurant chain has laid off at least nine women because they were pregnant.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on the basis of sex or pregnancy.

"It's important that employers know they can't institute these types of policies even if, to some extent, they make common sense," Wilhite said.