EEOC: Pregnant Nurse in S.C. With Preexisting Illness Was Victim of Title VII, ADA Violations

Beware the intersection or overlap of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act when it comes to pregnant employees.

In a suit filed last week, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accused a nursing center in South Carolina of violating both laws by refusing to accommodate a pregnant employee with a pre-existing medical condition by allowing her medical leave and instead firing her because she was disabled and pregnant.

According to the EEOC,  NHC Healthcare/Clinton, LLC knew that Tonya Aria, a full-time licensed practical nurse, suffered from paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT), which, without medication, can cause rapid heart rate, numbness in the extremities, tunnel vision, and occasional blackouts. The nurse’s PSVT is controlled by medication.

Due to her medical condition and pregnancy, the nurse was placed on bed rest and written out of three days’ work in early January 2013. On Jan. 15, 2013, the EEOC charged, the nurse was fired by the director of nursing because of absences related to her pregnancy and PSVT.

“Federal laws protect employees who are pregnant as well as those who have a disability,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “In this case, Ms. Aria had a pre-existing disability and was pregnant when the events alleged in EEOC’s complaint occurred. However, employees who do not have a pre-existing disability, but who develop medical conditions that meet the ADA’s definition of ‘disability’ as a result of becoming pregnant, are also protected from disability discrimination. Employers must be aware of this intersection between Title VII’s pregnancy discrimination prohibition and the ADA.”

Here’s the EEOC’s announcement about the lawsuit.



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