The EEOC is suing Saint Clare’s Health on behalf of an employee that was allegedly discriminated against due to a pregnancy disability.
Saint Clare’s Health, part of the Prime Healthcare Services hospital system, was recently named in a disability lawsuit alleging it “violated federal law when it refused to accommodate a new employee’s sudden disability by delaying her start date and withdrew her job offer instead,” according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
According to the complaint, Taylor McKay was hired by Saint Clare’s Health as an EMS dispatcher. She was pregnant at the time of hire and underwent a background check, drug test, and health screening before being scheduled to work. Soon after being hired, McKay was “hospitalized and diagnosed with preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication affecting the circulatory system, causing high blood pressure and risk to internal organs.”
The complaint states that five days before she was scheduled to start at her new job, McKay was in the hospital and “induced into early labor due to her condition.” While waiting for the birth of her son, she sent an email to Saint Clare’s human resources department “about her diagnosis and induction and asked what steps she needed to take next.” Hours later, “she received a voicemail from Saint Clare’s withdrawing her offer of employment, even though she needed only the minor accommodation of delaying her start date by several weeks,” the complaint states.
According to the EEOC, however, such conduct is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). According to the ADA, employers are required to “engage with applicants and employees to provide reasonable accommodations for disabilities and prohibits employers from taking adverse action against qualified applicants and employees based on their disability.” As a result, the EEOC filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey on behalf of McKay. Prior to the suit, the federal agency tried to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
As part of the lawsuit, the EEOC is seeking back pay and punitive and compensatory damages for McKay. Additionally, it seeks “injunctive relief designed to remedy and prevent future disability discrimination at Saint Clare’s.” When commenting on the case, Jeffrey Burstein, the regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office said:
“The law requires that employers engage with applicants and employees to provide reasonable accommodations for disabilities…Here, the employer’s response was not engagement, but instead revocation of the individual’s job — a clear violation of the ADA.”
Judy Keenan, the director of the New York District Office, chimed in and said:
“This case underscores that pregnancy-related disabilities are covered by the ADA. The EEOC will aggressively enforce the ADA to ensure that the reasonable accommodation process is followed for applicants and employees with these and other disabilities.”