EEOC settles its lawsuit against AMR for alleging the company refused to accommodate pregnant employee.
Colorado-based American Medical Response (AMR) is set to pay $162,500 to a paramedic to settle a lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) after the ambulance company refused to allow a pregnant employee from Spokane, Washington to take a break from heavy lifting despite receiving a note from her physician. The suit alleged that rather than assigning Katherine Hall lighter work to accommodate her pregnancy, “the company told her to take unpaid leave for the final days of her pregnancy.”
AMR spokesperson Nicole Lee said of the allegations, the company “applies appropriate policy and practice changes with each new change in law and had already changed its practice in Washington state before this lawsuit was started.” Filed in 2019 in the U.S. District Court in Spokane, the litigation focuses primarily on how AMR handled Hall’s pregnancy in 2017 despite the fact she gave her superiors a note requesting she be limited to lifting twenty pounds until she delivered, work no more than twelve hours per shift. Her doctor also suggested she be reassigned to dispatch until after her delivery.
AMR’s regional director responded to the doctor’s instructions for the ambulance provider, according to the suit, “There was no alternative work available at the time” and it continues, he “further advised Hall that due to her work restrictions, she would need to take a leave of absence instead.” Hall responded she “could not afford to take unpaid leave,” but that didn’t seem to matter.
The EEOC claimed AMR had violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The act prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, which it declares constitutes unlawful sex discrimination.
“Our investigation found that AMR had a robust practice of providing light duty work assignments to workers with similar restrictions because they sustained injuries on the job, or even off the job,” said Nancy Sienko, director of the EEOC’s Seattle Field Office. “But AMR refused to offer light duty to this paramedic, who faced similar restrictions due to her pregnancy. Such pregnancy-related distinctions violate federal law.”
EEOC Senior Trial Attorney May Che said, “The law makes it clear that an employer must accommodate pregnant employees to the same extent that it accommodates other employees with similar abilities or inabilities to work. Accommodating pregnancy-related limitations under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act is a key component of the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan to address ‘Selected Emerging and Developing Issues.’”
The EEOC claims it attempted to reach a settlement through its conciliation process prior to filing but was forced to move forward due to AMR’s lack of cooperation. The largest ambulatory services company in the world, AMR’s executives, in addition to paying the settlement fee, have been tasked with rolling out training on anti-discrimination laws and posting of anti-discrimination notices at the worksite. The company signed onto a two-and-a-half-year consent decree, under which it is to offer training on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to its supervisors and employees in Spokane.