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Pregnancy Discrimination Case Where Employer Did Not Accommodate Employee’s Lifting Restriction Resolved By EEOC

pregnant businesswoman reading papers at office

On December 30, 2019, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a press release announcing that it has entered into a Consent Decree to resolve a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit against Life Care Centers of America, Inc. (Life Care). On September 25, 2018, the EEOC filed the pregnancy discrimination lawsuit, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Life Care Centers of America, Inc. and South Hill Operators, LLC, Case No. 2:18-cv-01411, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington after initially attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its statutorily mandated conciliation process. 

The EEOC brought the pregnancy discrimination lawsuit on behalf of a former employee of Life Care, Nair Parsons (Parsons), pursuant to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA). The PDA protects employees from discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, including childbirth and pregnancy-related medical conditions. The PDA further mandates that employers must 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. The EEOC claims that Life Care discriminated against Parsons on the basis of pregnancy by refusing to accommodate her pregnancy-related lifting restrictions, while accommodating other non-pregnant employees who were similar in their inability to work. In this article, our Gainesville, Florida pregnancy discrimination lawyers explain the EEOC’s allegations against Life Care and the Consent Decree.

Employees Alleges Discrimination Based On Pregnancy

Life Care owns and operates nursing homes throughout the United States. In November 2015, Parsons began working for Life Care as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) at Life Care’s nursing home facility in Puyallup, Washington. On June 14, 2015, Parsons notified Life Care that she was seven months pregnant and provided a doctor’s note which indicated that she was limited from lifting more than fifteen pounds for the remainder of her pregnancy.

The next day, Life Care’s Director of Nursing and Assistant Director of Nursing informed Parsons that Life Care does not accommodate pregnant employees with light duty, but only accommodates employees who are injured on the job. The Director of Nursing also informed Parsons that she could take unpaid leave until her doctor removed her lifting restriction, that Parsons could reapply for a CNA job after she was ready to return to work but there was no guarantee that a CNA job would be available. Life Care then placed Parsons on involuntary, unpaid leave on June 15, 2016. Ultimately, because of Life Care’s refusal to accommodate her pregnancy-related lifting restriction, Parsons resigned her employment.

Must Accommodate Pregnancy-Related Restrictions

Life Care, according to the EEOC, regularly accommodates non-pregnant employees who have lifting restrictions similar to Parsons under circumstances where the employees’ lifting restrictions are caused by work-related injuries. The EEOC further claims that Life Care employees who are injured on the job are provided with light duty, but employees with similar restrictions caused by a pregnancy-related medical condition are not provided with light duty. The EEOC maintains that Life Care violated the PDA by providing non-pregnant employees with light duty when their lifting restrictions are caused by work-related injuries but refusing to provide Parsons with light duty when her lifting restriction was caused by her pregnancy.

Relief For Pregnancy Discrimination Victim

In the Consent Decree settling the lawsuit, which was signed by U.S. District Court Judge Richard A. Jones on December 23, 2019, Life Care agreed to pay Parsons $1700,000 to resolve the pregnancy discrimination lawsuit. In the Consent Decree, the EEOC also required Life Care to develop and implement policies prohibiting discrimination based on pregnancy, including promulgating a complaint procedure for employees to file internal complaints alleging pregnancy discrimination and a procedure by which employees can request an accommodation of a pregnancy-related work restriction. The Consent Decree also mandates that Life Care provide training to employees on pregnancy discrimination, with a special emphasis on employee rights in requesting an accommodation of a pregnancy-related work restriction.

EEO Law Protects Employee Rights

The EEOC is the administrative agency of the United States responsible for interpreting and enforcing federal laws forbidding employment discrimination, including pregnancy discrimination. In enforcing the federal EEO laws, the EEOC is also authorized by federal law to bring lawsuits on behalf of victims of pregnancy discrimination, including employees who have been denied an accommodation of a pregnancy-related work restriction. In a press release issued by the EEOC on December 30, 2019 regarding the case, the Director of the EEOC’s Seattle District Office, Nancy Sienko, stated that “an employer may not reject an employee’s request for pregnancy-related work restrictions if the same employer is granting the light duty request of a non-pregnant employee.” “This suit,” Ms. Sienko explained, “serves to remind employers of that obligation.”

Consultation With Gainesville Discrimination Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, our Gainesville, Florida pregnancy discrimination attorneys have represented employees in hundreds of cases before the EEOC. If you have been discriminated against on the basis of pregnancy or have questions regarding requesting an accommodation of a pregnancy-related work restriction, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Gainesville, Florida pregnancy discrimination lawyers. 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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