Life Care Centers of America, Inc. will pay $170,000 to a former employee to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit filed by the EEOC.
Life Care Centers of America, Inc., along with its affiliate, South Hill Operations, LLC recently agreed to pay $170,000 to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit with a former employee. The suit itself was filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and argued that the employee was working “as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) for Life Care Centers in Puyallup, Washington” when she became pregnant.
During the employee’s pregnancy, Life Care “refused to accommodate her request not to lift anything heavier than 15lbs. for the last part of her pregnancy.” At the time, the company said it “only provided light duty to employees injured on the job.” As a result, the employee was placed on involuntary, unpaid leave. To make matters worse, the suit alleged “Life Care supervisors told her to reapply for a CNA job once she was ready to return to unrestricted duty, which she understood to mean that she was fired.”
It is important to point out that denying light duty to pregnant employees while providing light duty to “similarly-abled non-pregnant employees may violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended (Title VII) and The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA),” according to the EEOC. As a result of the alleged discrimination, the EEOC sued the company in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington after efforts to reach a voluntary settlement through its conciliation process failed.
Under the recent settlement agreement, Life Care will pay the employee $170,000 in lost wages and compensatory damages, as well as provide training on “Title VII and the PDA to all employees, including management and supervisors at its Washington state facilities, and human resources staff that advise them.” When commenting on the matter, Nancy Sienko, the director of the EEOC’s Seattle Field Office said:
“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 serves to remind employers of that obligation.”
EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney John Stanley also chimed in and said:
“One of the six national priorities identified by the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP) is to address emerging and developing issues in equal employment law, including accommodating pregnancy-related limitations. We are encouraged that Life Care will take affirmative steps to implement policies and training that ensure employees with pregnancy-related work restrictions have their light-duty requests properly considered.”
Life Care Centers is a network of 236 geriatric healthcare service providers. The company has operations in more than 35 states.