Settlement Ends EEOC Suit Against Rehab Facility Over Refusal to Accommodate Pregnancy

Hopefully this employer and others in similar situations have learned their lessons about accommodation of pregnant workers.

PruittHealth-Raleigh, LLC will pay $25,000 and provide other relief to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced on Thursday. The EEOC charged that PruittHealth violated Title VII when it denied a reasonable accommodation to a pregnant employee with a medically imposed lifting restriction and then unlawfully required the employee to resign because of her pregnancy-related lifting restriction.

PruittHealth-Raleigh LLC, (PruittHealth) operates a skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility in Raleigh, N.C. According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, PruittHealth subjected Dominque Codrington, a certified nursing assistant, to disparate treatment by refusing to accommodate her pregnancy-related lifting restriction, while accommodating the restrictions of other non-pregnant employees who were injured on the job and who were similar in their ability or inability to work. The EEOC alleged that PruittHealth refused to accommodate Codrington and required her to involuntarily resign in lieu of termination.

Such alleged conduct violates Section 703(a) of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 2000(e)-2(a), which protects employees from discrimination on the basis of sex (pregnancy) and requires employers to provide pregnant employees with the same reasonable accommodations as those provided to non-pregnant employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Western Division (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. PruittHealth-Raleigh, LLC; Civil Action No 5:18-cv-00165) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliĀ­ation process.

In addition to the $25,000 in damages, the two-year consent decree settling the suit requires that PruittHealth adopt, implement, and distribute a formal written policy that provides the opportunity for modified duty for pregnant employees with medically imposed, pregnancy-related work restrictions on the same basis that modified duty is provided to non-pregnant employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work. PruittHealth also must provide annual training to its managers and supervisors at its Raleigh facility on the requirements of Title VII, specifically, the requirement that employers not take adverse employment actions against an employee based on her pregnancy.

“Employers must treat the work restrictions of pregnant employees just like those of non-pregnant employees,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “Companies must be careful not to violate federal anti-discrimination law when they pick and choose which employees to accommodate.”

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