Life Care Centers of America to Pay $170,000 to Settle EEOC Discrimination Lawsuit


Blog#12302019EEOC

Heidi Macomber reads the 12/30/19 EEOC press release “Life Care Centers of America to Pay $170,000 to Settle EEOC Discrimination

Today’s post is about another Pregnancy related discrimination charge filed by the EEOC, where the employer failed to consider an accommodation request for light duty by a pregnant employee which was not treated the same as disabilities caused or contributed to by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, for all job-related purposes granted to other employees. The following is a word for word reading of the EEOC notice dated 12/30/19.

 Company Refused to Provide Light Duty to Pregnant Worker, Federal Agency Charged

SEATTLE – Geriatric care giant Life Care Centers of America, Inc. and its affiliate, South Hill Operations, LLC, doing business as “Life Care Center of South Hill,” will pay $170,000 to a former employee to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

The employee worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) for Life Care Centers in Puyallup, Washington. According to the EEOC’s suit, Life Care refused to accommodate her request not to lift anything heavier than 15 lbs. for the last part of her pregnancy.  Stating that Life Care only provided light duty to employees injured on the job, the company placed her on involuntary, unpaid leave.  The EEOC also 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.

Denying light duty to a pregnant employee while providing it 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).  The EEOC filed suit (EEOC vLife Care Centers of America, Inc. and South Hill Operations LLC d/b/a Life Care Center of South Hill in Puyallup, No. 2:18-cv-01411-RAJ) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement with Life Care through conciliation. 

Under the three-year consent decree, Life Care agrees to pay the employee $170,000 in lost wages and compensatory damages and 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.

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,” said Nancy Sienko, director of the EEOC’s Seattle Field Office. “This suit serves to remind employers of that obligation.”

“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,” noted EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney John Stanley.  “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.”

According to company information, Life Care Centers is a nationwide network of over 236 geriatric health care service providers with operations in over 35 states, and had over $10.3 million in net sales in 2015, the year in which the employee last worked for the co-defendants in Puyallup.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov

PDA Notes

Covered employer is defined as an employer with 15 or more employees

Time Limits

  • Non-federal employee have 180 days to file a charge (this may be increased based on individual state law)
  • Federal employees have 45 days to contact an EEO counselor

1604.10 Employment policies relating to pregnancy and childbirth.

§ 1604.10 Employment policies relating to pregnancy and childbirth.

  • (a) A written or unwritten employment policy or practice which excludes from employment applicants or employees because of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions is in prima facie violation of title VII.
  • (b) Disabilities caused or contributed to by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, for all job-related purposes, shall be treated the same as disabilities caused or contributed to by other medical conditions, under any health or disability insurance or sick leave plan available in connection with employment. Written or unwritten employment policies and practices involving matters such as the commencement and duration of leave, the availability of extensions, the accrual of seniority and other benefits and privileges, reinstatement, and payment under any health or disability insurance or sick leave plan, formal or informal, shall be applied to disability due to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions on the same terms and conditions as they are applied to other disabilities. Health insurance benefits for abortion, except where the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term or where medical complications have arisen from an abortion, are not required to be paid by an employer; nothing herein, however, precludes an employer from providing abortion benefits or otherwise affects bargaining agreements in regard to abortion.
  • (c) Where the termination of an employee who is temporarily disabled is caused by an employment policy under which insufficient or no leave is available, such a termination violates the Act if it has a disparate impact on employees of one sex and is not justified by business necessity.
  • (d)(1) Any fringe benefit program, or fund, or insurance program which is in effect on October 31, 1978, which does not treat women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions the same as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work, must be in compliance with the provisions of § 1604.10(b) by April 29, 1979. In order to come into compliance with the provisions of 1604.10(b), there can be no reduction of benefits or compensation which were in effect on October 31, 1978, before October 31, 1979 or the expiration of a collective bargaining agreement in effect on October 31, 1978, whichever is later.
  • (2) Any fringe benefit program implemented after October 31, 1978, must comply with the provisions of § 1604.10(b) upon implementation.[44 FR 23805, Apr. 20, 1979]

Resources

EEOC Pregnancy Discrimination


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