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EEOC Settles Pregnancy Discrimination Case Claiming Employer Failed To Accommodate Pregnant Employee

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In a press release issued April 11, 2019, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that it has entered into a Consent Decree to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit filed by the EEOC against PruittHealth-Raleigh, LLC (PruittHealth). On April 15, 2018, the EEOC filed the pregnancy discrimination lawsuit, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. PruittHealth, LLC, Case No. 3:18-cv-165, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina after initially attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its statutorily mandated conciliation process. In this article, our Citrus County, Florida employment discrimination lawyers explain the EEOC’s allegations against PruittHealth and the Consent Decree.

The EEOC brought the pregnancy discrimination lawsuit pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978, on behalf of a former employee of PruittHealth, Dominque Codrington (Codrington). Under the PDA, employers are prohibited from discriminating against women on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. The PDA further mandates that employers treat women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions the same as non-pregnant employees, whether male or female, who are similar in their ability or inability to work. This means that employers must provide pregnant employees with the same reasonable accommodations as those provided to non-pregnant employees who similar in their ability or inability to work.

EEOC’S Allegations Of Pregnancy Discrimination

PruittHealth operates a skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility in Raleigh, North Carolina. In September 2016, Codrington began her employment with PruittHealth as a Certified Nursing Assistant. On October 5, 2016, Codrington, who was pregnant at the time, provided a Staffing Coordinator with a doctor’s note setting forth her due date and reflecting a lifting restriction of no more than 20 pounds during her pregnancy. The Staffing Coordinator told Codrington that PruittHealth does not accommodate pregnant employees with light duty, but, instead, only accommodates employees who are injured on the job. Codrington then requested that she be allowed to continue working but only be required to work on the “memory unit” where residents are more independently mobile. PruittHealth rejected this request on the grounds that only employees with work-related injuries are accommodated.

On October 7, 2016, Codrington met with her supervisor and a Human Resources Specialist regarding her pregnancy-related lifting restriction. During the meeting, Codrington was asked how far along she was in her pregnancy and whether the lifting restriction would last until the end of her pregnancy. Codrington responded that she was five months pregnant and the lifting restriction would continue throughout her pregnancy. The supervisor and Human Resources Specialist told Codrington that PruittHealth does not accommodate a restriction which is not caused by a work-related injury. Codrington was further told that because her lifting restriction would last throughout her pregnancy, she could resign in lieu of termination and then reapply after her baby was born. Consequently, PruittHealth forced Codrington to resign involuntarily because of its refusal to accommodate her pregnancy-related lifting restriction.

The EEOC claims that PruittHealth discriminated against Codrington by refusing to accommodate her pregnancy-related lifting restriction because it accommodated non-pregnant employees with similar work restrictions. Thus, the EEOC maintains that PruittHealth treated Codrington differently and less favorably from non-pregnant employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work. Under the PDA, according to the EEOC, PruittHealth was not allowed to provide employees who are injured on the job with modified duty but refuse to provide pregnant employees with similar restrictions with modified duty. The EEOC further claims that by refusing to accommodate Codrington’s pregnancy-related lifting restriction and requiring her to submit a resignation in lieu of termination, PruittHealth constructively discharged Codrington in violation of the PDA.

Consent Decree Settling Discrimination Lawsuit

In the Consent Decree settling the lawsuit, which was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina on April 15, 2019, PruittHealth agreed to pay $25,000 to Codrington to resolve the pregnancy discrimination case. In the Consent Decree, PruittHealth also agreed to provide an annual training for a three-year period to all managers and supervisors at its Raleigh facility on the requirements of the PDA, including the requirement that employers not take adverse employment actions against an employee based on her pregnancy. The EEOC further required PruittHealth to adopt and distribute a formal written policy in the Raleigh facility which provides the opportunity for modified duty for pregnant employees with medically imposed, pregnancy-related work restrictions on the same basis for which modified duty is provided to non-pregnant employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work.

Pregnant Employees Must Be Treated Equally

The EEOC is the administrative agency of the United States responsible for interpreting and enforcing federal laws forbidding employment discrimination. In enforcing the federal anti-discrimination laws, the EEOC is also authorized by federal law to bring lawsuits on behalf of victims of employment discrimination. In a press release issued by the EEOC regarding the case, a Regional Attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office, Lynette A. Barnes, stated that “[e]mployers must treat the work restrictions of pregnant employees just like those of non-pregnant employees.” “Companies must be careful not to violate federal anti-discrimination law,” Ms. Barnes added, “when they pick and choose which employees to accommodate.”

Free Consultation With Inverness Discrimination Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, we have represented employment discrimination victims in hundreds of cases before the EEOC. If you have been subjected to pregnancy discrimination or have questions about your right to be provided with the same accommodations as those provided to non-pregnant employees, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Citrus County, Florida employment discrimination attorneys. Our employment and labor law attorneys take employment discrimination cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.

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