Well, chalk up another healthcare provider nabbed by the EEOC for allegedly violating the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”), an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Add this to the numerous such lawsuits brought against healthcare providers under the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”).
I have warned healthcare providers for years not to call down the EEOC by treating pregnant or disabled employees disparately – it’s way too easy for the EEOC to shake its finger publicly at “the helping profession” for violating the PDA or the ADA. I’ve said – too many times – that:
The EEOC sees such health care folks as fat, juicy targets — for example, accusing the helping profession, which is there to treat the sick, disabled and pregnant, of disability discrimination surely attracts the inevitable sanctimonious media attention. Alleging that, for example, doctors discriminate on the basis of disability against the very folks that they are there to minister to is sure to bolster the EEOC’s image.
The latest victim? A North Carolina nursing and rehabilitation center which allegedly “refused to accommodate the pregnancy-related work restriction of a certified nursing assistant and forced her to resign.”
As is somewhat typical in these cases, the company allegedly offered light duty or job modifications to injured certified nursing assistants (“CNA”) but refusing such accommodations to pregnant certified nursing assistants. As is also somewhat typical in these cases, the work restriction was related to lifting.
“The EEOC said that at all relevant times, the company had lifting devices and transfer belts available to help lift patients and did not prohibit CNAs from seeking the assistance of co-workers to lift patients manually. The EEOC contends that by refusing to accommodate [this employees’] pregnancy-related lifting restriction and forcing her to resign, the company violated the law.”
Not even 6 weeks ago, the EEOC sued another North Carolina rehabilitation and nursing center under the PDA. What were the allegations? It seems that the center allegedly offered light duty or job modifications to accommodate the temporary restrictions of certified nursing assistants who were injured at work, but refused to grant similar accommodations or modifications to CNAs who experience pregnancy-related work restrictions.
Sound familiar? Or, more precisely, identical?
The EEOC recently sued a Georgia discount retail chain store under the PDA for assigning a pregnant employee “tasks in violation of her pregnancy-related restrictions, denied her breaks, and scheduled her to work on days she had doctors’ appointments.”
Employers must engage in an interactive process with a requesting employee who is pregnant or who has a disability to seek a reasonable accommodation that is not unduly burdensome to you.
It isn’t all that difficult (and usually not particularly expensive) to arrive at a “reasonable accommodation” – at least compared to the cost of litigation and settlement. And in the new case – the accommodation was already being made for other employees.
And if you are a heath care or medical facility, be aware – be very aware – that if you fail to do this you are inviting EEOC.