Nursing Home Terminated Pregnant Nursing Supervisor Who Requested a Lifting Accommodation, Conducted Unlawful Medical Inquiry, and Refused Rehire Because of Her Disability, Federal Agency Says
PHILADELPHIA - Nursing home Landis Homes Retirement Community, and its managing entity, Landis Communities, will pay $132,500 and furnish other significant relief to resolve a federal pregnancy discrimination, disability discrimination, and retaliation lawsuit, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today.
According to EEOC's lawsuit, Amy Potts had worked as a RN / charge nurse and campus supervisor for eight years at Landis's facility in Lititz, Pa., when she requested to lift no more than 25 pounds following a surgical procedure relating to her disability, a reproductive system impairment. EEOC charged that Landis refused to accommodate Potts even though the nursing home had accommodated non-pregnant employees with similar lifting restrictions. Instead, Landis placed Potts on indefinite leave because of her pregnancy and disability and told her to re-apply after she gave birth and no longer had any restrictions. However, when Potts sought rehire after having her baby, Landis refused to rehire her and engaged in an unlawful medical inquiry, according to the suit.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, makes it illegal to discriminate against a woman because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits disability discrimination and requires employers to provide a reasonable accommodation unless it would pose an undue hardship.
EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Landis Communities and Landis Homes Retirement Community, Civil Action No. 5:15-cv-05282) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to the $132,500 in monetary relief to Potts, the two-year consent decree resolving the lawsuit provides significant equitable relief, including enjoining Landis Homes Retirement Community, and all of the facilities operated by its managing entity, Landis Communities, from violating Title VII or the ADA in the future. Landis will provide training on Title VII and the ADA, with an emphasis on the prohibitions against pregnancy discrimination and an employer's reasonable accommodation obligations. The nursing home will report to EEOC on its compliance with the consent decree, including how it handles any future discrimination or retaliation complaints, and post a notice about the settlement at all of its facilities. Also, Landis will implement and disseminate its anti-discrimination policies to all its employees, including a policy that addresses accommodating pregnant employees with physical restrictions.
"Employers must be aware of the intersection between the ADA and Title VII's pregnancy discrimination prohibitions," said EEOC Philadelphia District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. "This settlement should prompt all employers to review their reasonable accommodation policies and practices now to make sure they are compliant with both laws."
EEOC Philadelphia District Office Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, "This is an important settlement that, in addition to the substantial monetary relief, protects other applicants and employees with disabilities and pregnant women from discrimination and the unlawful denial of accommodations."
One of the six national priorities identified by the Commission's Strategic Enforcement Plan is for the Commission to address emerging and developing issues in equal employment law, including issues involving the ADA and pregnancy-related limitations, among other possible issues.
EEOC Philadelphia District Office has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. Legal staff of EEOC's Philadelphia District Office also prosecutes discrimination cases arising from Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.
EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the agency is available at its website, www.eeoc.gov.